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Barley Adapts to Climate Change

25 January 2012

SPAIN - The upsurge in droughts is one of the main consequences of climate change, and affects crops in particular. However, Anabel Robredo, a biologist at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), has confirmed that in the case of barley at least, climate change itself is providing it with self-defence mechanisms to tackle a lack of water.

Climate change is in fact also responsible for a considerable increase in the concentration of CO2, a gas that, paradoxically, is providing this plant with certain characteristics enabling it to offset the effects of drought.

Her thesis is entitled Mecanismos fisiológicos de respuesta de la cebada al impacto de la sequia y el elevado CO2: adaptación al cambio climático (Physiological Response Mechanisms of Barley to the impact of drought and elevated CO2: adaptation to climate change). Various international publications have also echoed this research, the most recent being Environmental and Experimental Botany.

Ms Robredo has analysed the effect that takes place in the barley as a result of the combination of two of the main consequences brought to us by climate change: the enriching of CO2 and drought. As the researcher explains, “the atmospheric concentration of this gas has increased considerably within the last few decades, and it is expected to increase much more. So we compared barley plants that grow in a CO2 concentration equal to the current (ambient) one with others cultivated in double the concentration, which is what we are expected to reach by the end of this century."

The study was carried out through a progressive imposition of drought so it also determined the capacity of these plants to recover following the lack of irrigation, in an ambient CO2 concentration as well as in the one expected for the future.

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