School of forestry and environmental studies

School Notes: School of the Environment
January/February 2023

Ingrid C. “Indy” Burke |

Researchers discover how plants adapted to land

A research team led by YSE professor of plant physiological ecology Craig Brodersen solved a mystery that befuddled scientists for decades: how early plants emerged from their watery habitats to grow on land. Using microscopy and anatomical analysis to view the inner workings of plant specimens, the researchers discovered that a simple change in the vascular system of plants made them more drought-resistant, which opened up new landscapes for exploration. These changes, the researchers say, took place over approximately 20–40 million years. The driving forces behind the change to plant vascular structure could help inform research in breeding drought-resistant plants, helping to build resilience to the impacts of climate change and address production-related food insecurity issues.

International tropical ecology expert joins YSE faculty

Paulo Brando, an internationally recognized expert of tropical ecosystems, joined the YSE faculty this semester. His research explores the causes of deforestation and forest degradation in the Amazon and the associated consequences to climate, ecological stability, and the potential future pathways of forests, using methods that combine field manipulation experiments, ecological models, and remote sensing. At YSE, Brando’s work with students uses the techniques of remote sensing and field observations to analyze the changes in tropical forests. “What happens in the tropics doesn’t stay in the tropics. It affects the global climate system,” says Brando. “Can forests continue to store and capture carbon as climate and uses of land change? What can we do to increase their ability to keep functioning like a huge carbon sink? These are some of the big questions related to carbon capture in forests and natural ecosystems in general.”

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