UNR ecologist says climate change to blame for reduced plant size

RENO, Nev. (KRNV & -- Warmer temperatures could be the reason for reduced plant size in the Great Basin, according to University of Nevada, Reno plant ecologist Beth Leger.

Leger, an associate professor of plant ecology in the department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, took into account air temperature, sea surface temperatures and precipitation beginning in the year each specimen was collected. She used climate data from PRISM, recognized world-wide as having the highest-quality spatial climate data sets currently available.

Leger and four undergraduate students examined, measured and analyzed more than 1,900 samples to determine if climate affected plant height, leaf size and flower number, and whether those changes in climate resulted in decreasing sizes. While one species increased in size and flower number over the observation period, five of the seven species decreased in plant height, four of these decreased in leaf size and one species also decreased in flower production. One species showed no change.