Get Regular Updates!
Search

Earth

image|

Haylee D’Agui

Seedlings were raised with enough water, or in drought conditions.

Tough times breed tough offspring

Want tougher, more drought-resistant native plants? Treat ‘em mean.

Tough times breed tough offspring

Want tougher, more drought-resistant native plants? Treat ‘em mean.

Research by Curtin University PhD student Haylee D’Agui has found that plants established during a drought produce more drought-tolerant seedlings.

Haylee studied four species—two banksias and two hakeas—using seeds gathered from parent plants in Eneabba.

Half the parents had enjoyed a rainy start to life, while the rest grew up with drought.

For two weeks, Haylee offered her seedlings either 200 ml of water every second day, or half that.

Then she did no watering at all for three months.

She found the offspring of drought survivors grew longer roots, had greater water content in their leaves, and survived better than their pampered counterparts.

Image|

Haylee D’Agui

When grown from seeds produced by parents raised in drought conditions, the drought-prone native Banksia hookeriana became more drought resistant.

When grown from seeds produced by parents raised in drought conditions, the drought-prone native Banksia hookeriana became more drought resistant.

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE GENES START CHANGING

The differences in drought-resistant plants were more than skin-deep.

Haylee genetically analysed the drought-prone native—Banksia hookeriana—comparing individuals grown from drought-affected parents with those from well-watered parents.

She found 8% of the plant’s approximately 28 000 genes were expressed differently.

“If their parents had a stressful life, those seedlings used different pathways to regulate growth,” she explains.

“They had increased stress-avoidance pathways, and were able to direct their energies into surviving the drought, but with less growth.”

Drought-hardy plants also increased programmed cell death.

“The plant could recycle those unnecessary cells, directing that energy into more useful pathways,” explains Haylee.

But increasing drought-resistance reduced the plants’ overall genetic diversity, Haylee found.

“If you’re selecting for drought tolerance, for example, that might be at the expense of other traits,” she says.

“We need to maintain large plant populations, to keep up the genetic diversity, so you can have these changes occurring.”

RACE AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE

Haylee’s always loved native plants, and says her results offer hope that they may be able to evolve fast enough to keep up with the demands of our changing climate.

“Perhaps there is a chance,” she says. “Perhaps they can survive. It depends how fast the changes occur, and how well we protect what is left.”

“The more biodiversity there is, the better the chances are of it surviving.”

WATER DEEP, NOT OFTEN

If you want your native plants to be more drought-resistant, give them a taste of drought.

“If a plant’s roots have to search for water, then they’ll keep going down, but if there’s plenty of water up top, they don’t need to keep growing,” explains Haylee, who grew her experimental seedlings in pots one metre tall.

“It was pretty crazy,” she says, “but when we harvested the plants, we found they’d well and truly reached the bottom of the pot.”

Tracking WA Science VIDEO

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?