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Houseplants ability to survive drought can provide useful knowledge for the climate change era

Denmark English

Researchers from the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, have in collaboration with researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in England, demonstrated that certain Aloe species shrink, or more scientifically speaking—fold—their cell walls together. In doing so, the plants preserve resources during drought. Concurrently, the carbohydrate (polysaccharide) composition of their cell walls are altered. The results have just been published in the journal Plant, Cell and Environment. "Our results tie changes in carbohydrate composition with the Aloe plant's ability to manage extended periods of drought. It is highly relevant, that we understand the physiological mechanisms that allow certain plants to survive under extreme conditions, due to climate change and the potential for severe climatic fluctuations," says plant biologist Louise Isager Ahl of the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

One of the mechanisms that succulents use to resist drought is to fold their cell walls together during dehydration and unfold them again as water becomes available. The unique composition of carbohydrates in the cell walls and within the cells of the hydrenchyma is partly responsible for these plants' ability to regulate and retain water. It is a trait that may be transferable to other plants. "I can imagine that by identifying and understanding the genetic mechanisms allowing Aloe species to fold and unfold their cell walls, we will be able to integrate similar mechanisms into crops to make them more resilient to climate change," says Louise Isager Ahl.