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The Week in Botany 153

June 8, 2020

Compiling last week's newsletter the big political story in the UK had been about an eye-test. Botanists following @botanyone on Twitter sent lots of tweets about it, but it wasn't relevant to the newsletter. This week politics entered a lot of tweets. I've included them, because if a person cannot participate in activities including botany, without risking getting killed, then there's a problem.
There are many statements, but the quality of organisations shouldn't be measured by their eloquence now, but by their actions over the next months.
Until next week, stay safe.
Alun (

From Botany One

Short- and long-term responses to elevated carbon dioxide use the same genetic controls
Manipulating stomatal traits could produce more crops for dry regions.

It’s epigenetics after all! How environmentally-induced traits might support plant ecosystems
Diversity of parental environments could have comparable effects to genetic diversity in Arabidopsis.

Ex Situ Collections Not Reaching Genetic Diversity Goals
More efficient sampling could capture greater diversity without overwhelming space constraints.

Seeing red isn’t the same everywhere! How and why red flowers differ between locations.
The precise colouration of red flowers differs according to where they are and what they interact with.

Do sword lilies use enough protection? Yes, post-pollination reproductive barriers work!
The study reveals the key role of gametic selection in siring success.

Even plants want it to snow! The effects of cold stress on plant communities and how snow may offset these
Snow may not necessarily be a bad thing for plants.

Advancing an interdisciplinary framework to study seed dispersal ecology
Beckman et al. provide guidance on integrating empirical and theoretical approaches that account for the context-dependency of seed dispersal.

Positions matter: drones using nadir and oblique photography on maize fields
Study reveals that more detailed 3D point clouds can be produced using oblique photography.

Non-native plant species climb mountains in a different way to native species
One way invasive species spread through an area is by harnessing variability in traits, but this doesn’t match observations of invasive species on the slopes of Mount Teide.

A long-lasting connection? Links between genome size and stomata size in plants
Increases in genome size through whole genome duplication has often been suggested to be major driver to increased developmental complexity during plant evolution.

News and Views

Botanical Society of America's Statement on Diversity and Inclusion
As the Botanical Society of America, we denounce all forms of racism, harassment and discrimination...
Botanical Society of America

Letter to the community
We echo the message of these protests: Black lives matter...
EcoTone: News and Views on Ecological Science

Silence Suffocates Us All
We deplore the pervasive institutional racism that allows systemic injustice, inequality, suffering, and violence to fester.
Plant Science Today

Statement Against Racism and Racial Injustice
To our members in the Black community, we extend our heartfelt sympathy and abiding support at this especially difficult time. To this community, and to all biologists of color: we hear you, and we see you.
Society for the Study of Evolution

These Black nature lovers are busting stereotypes, one cool bird at a time
These young Black naturalists -- and the birds they love -- are some of the stars of Black Birders Week, a series of events and activities designed to highlight Black scientists, scholars and everyday nature lovers.

Racism derails our attempts to fight the climate crisis
"There are ~23 million black Americans who are *already* deeply concerned about the #ClimateCrisis. (MILLION!) Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to solve 2 existential crises at once?" tweets @ayanaeliza.
The Washington Post

Ferns with superpowers
Appearing grey-brown and lifeless, resurrection ferns, such as Pentagramma triangularis, can withstand long periods of drought in a curled up, desiccated state only to return to a lush green again once hydrated. This ability to withstand near-complete water loss and then recover allows the resurrection ferns to thrive in habitats where other plants would not survive.
New Phyt blog

Racism in Science: We need to act now
eLife, like the rest of science, must tackle the many inequalities experienced by Black scientists.

Black Lives Matter: A commitment from eLife
The communities of eLife are committed to using our voices, actions and resources to confront anti-Black racism and racial inequality in science, medicine and beyond.


Scientific Papers

Leaf carbon export and non-structural carbohydrates in relation to diurnal water dynamics in mature oak trees
Trees typically experience large diurnal depressions in water potential, which may impede carbon export from leaves during the day because the xylem is the source of water for the phloem. As water potential becomes more negative, higher phloem osmotic concentrations are needed to draw water in from the xylem. Generating this high concentration of sugar in the phloem is particularly an issue for the ~50% of trees that exhibit passive loading. These ideas motivate the hypothesis that carbon export in woody plants occurs predominantly at night, with sugars that accumulate during the day assisting in mesophyll turgor maintenance or being converted to starch. To test this, diurnal and seasonal patterns of leaf non-structural carbohydrates, photosynthesis, solute, and water potentials were measured, and carbon export was estimated in leaves of five mature (> 20 m tall) red oak (Quercus rubra) trees, a species characterized as a passive loader.
Plant Physiology

A standard protocol for reporting species distribution models
Zurell et al. propose a standard protocol for reporting Species distribution models (SDMs), with an emphasis on describing how a study's objective is achieved through a series of modeling decisions. We call this the ODMAP (Overview, Data, Model, Assessment and Prediction) protocol, as its components reflect the main steps involved in building SDMs and other empirically‐based biodiversity models. The ODMAP protocol serves two main purposes. First, it provides a checklist for authors, detailing key steps for model building and analyses, and thus represents a quick guide and generic workflow for modern SDMs. Second, it introduces a structured format for documenting and communicating the models, ensuring transparency and reproducibility, facilitating peer review and expert evaluation of model quality, as well as meta‐analyses.

A single gene underlies the dynamic evolution of poplar sex determination
show that diverse poplar species carry partial duplicates of the ARABIDOPSIS RESPONSE REGULATOR 17 (ARR17) orthologue in the male-specific region of the Y chromosome. These duplicates give rise to small RNAs apparently causing male-specific DNA methylation and silencing of the ARR17 gene. CRISPR–Cas9-induced mutations demonstrate that ARR17 functions as a sex switch, triggering female development when on and male development when off.
Nature Plants

Ecological Differentiation and Incipient Speciation in the Fungal Pathogen Causing Rice Blast
Natural variation in plant pathogens has an impact on food security and ecosystem health. The rice blast fungus Pyricularia oryzae, which limits rice production in all rice-growing areas, is structured into multiple lineages. Diversification and the maintenance of multiple rice blast lineages have been proposed to be due to separation in different areas and differential adaptation to rice subspecies. However, the precise world distribution of rice blast populations, and the factors controlling their presence and maintenance in the same geographic areas, remain largely unknown. Thierry et al. used genotyping data for 886 isolates from more than 185 locations in 51 countries to show that P. oryzae is structured into one recombining and three clonal lineages, each with broad geographic distributions.

Unexpected conservation and global transmission of agrobacterial virulence plasmids
Plasmids are widespread among bacteria and are important because they spread virulence and antibiotic resistance traits, among others. They are horizontally transferred between strains and species, so it is difficult to work out their evolution and epidemiology. Agrobacteria, a diverse grouping of species that infect plants, inject oncogenic Ti and Ri plasmids, which cause crown galls and hairy root diseases, respectively. The upside is that these plasmids have become valuable biotechnological tools. Weisberg et al. combed through an 80-year-old collection of Agrobacterium strains but found a surprisingly low diversity of plasmids.

Global variation in the thermal tolerances of plants
Knowledge of how thermal tolerances are distributed across major clades and biogeographic regions is important for understanding biome formation and climate change responses. However, most research has concentrated on animals, and we lack equivalent knowledge for other organisms. Lancaster and Humphreys compile global data on heat and cold tolerances of plants, showing that many, but not all, broad-scale patterns known from animals are also true for plants.

Academic leaders must support inclusive scientific communities during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic poses major challenges for all sectors of society, including scientists faced with abrupt disruptions and redirections of research and higher education. The consequences of this crisis will disproportionately impact early-career scientists; especially those from communities historically underrepresented, disadvantaged and/or discriminated in the fields of environmental sciences, including women, researchers from the Global South and persons with disabilities. Maas et al. call for a collective effort by the entire scientific community, especially those in leadership positions, to respond to the short- and long-term challenges of this crisis and to protect decades of efforts to build an inclusive scientific community.
Nature Ecology & Evolution

Brassinosteroids Inhibit Autotropic Root Straightening by Modifying Filamentous-Actin Organization and Dynamics | Plant Science
When positioned horizontally, roots grow down toward the direction of gravity. This phenomenon, called gravitropism, is influenced by most of the major plant hormones including brassinosteroids. Epi-brassinolide (eBL) was previously shown to enhance root gravitropism, a phenomenon similar to the response of roots exposed to the actin inhibitor, latrunculin B (LatB). This led de Bang et al. to hypothesize that eBL might enhance root gravitropism through its effects on filamentous-actin (F-actin). This hypothesis was tested by comparing gravitropic responses of maize (Zea mays) roots treated with eBL or LatB. LatB- and eBL-treated roots displayed similar enhanced downward growth compared with controls when vertical roots were oriented horizontally.
Frontiers in Plant Science

Metabolic Cellular Communications: Feedback Mechanisms between Membrane Lipid Homeostasis and Plant Development
Boutté and Jaillais review several recent examples of lipid metabolic changes highlighting the intricate feedbacks between membrane lipid homeostasis and plant development. In particular, these examples illustrate how all aspects of membrane lipid metabolic pathways are targeted by these feedback regulations. We propose that the time has come to consider membrane lipids and lipid metabolism as an integral part of the developmental program needed to build a plant.
Developmental Cell

Highly active rubiscos discovered by systematic interrogation of natural sequence diversity
CO2 is converted into biomass almost solely by the enzyme rubisco. The poor carboxylation properties of plant rubiscos have led to efforts that made it the most kinetically characterized enzyme, yet these studies focused on < 5% of its natural diversity. Davidi et al. searched for fast‐carboxylating variants by systematically mining genomic and metagenomic data. Approximately 33,000 unique rubisco sequences were identified and clustered into ≈ 1,000 similarity groups.
The EMBO Journal


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