Scientists Capture Magnified Video Of A Plant Breathing In Amazing Detail

Something that was taught to all of us when we were in school is that plants take in carbon dioxide and let off oxygen. It’s a fundamental scientific truth that we all understand and believe.

Thanks to the advancements in technology, we now have the opportunity to see it in action and in this video, you can actually see a plant breathing as it happens.

Photo: Flickr/Drew Avery License: CC BY 2.0

Not only is this something that can really change your mind when it comes to how plants exist, but it can also help biologists to feed the world as the climate conditions continue to change.

The video was taken by biologists at the University of California San Diego. The U.S. National Science Foundation was funding some research, and they were able to capture something that was somewhat unexpected.

Tiny openings in the plants known as stomata open and close in order to allow the plant to breathe in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. It was always known that the stomata did this, but now they were able to see it.

Photo: YouTube/BeastEater

It isn’t only the fact that carbon dioxide is taken in while they are opening their stomata, they also lose some moisture as they do so. Perhaps that is more important to understand than the fact that plants actually breathe because we live in a world where drought and hot temperatures are becoming the norm.

According to a Eurkea Alert press release, Jared Dashoff of the National Science Foundation explained it this way: “The researchers hope that harnessing this mechanism could lead to future engineering of plant water use efficiency and carbon intake, critical as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration continues to increase.”

He went on to talk about how the inside of the plant is exposed to the elements when the stomata are open. That causes water within the plant to be lost to the surrounding air and they could easily dry out. Dashoff went on to explain how plants have to balance breathing in carbon dioxide with the water vapor loss that occurs along with it.

Photo: YouTube/BeastEater

Julian Schroeder, a leader in the research that took place, said in the press release: “The response to changes is critical for plant growth and regulates how efficient the plant can be in using water, which is important as we see increased drought and rising temperatures.”

This is important to consider because of the climate change that is taking place around the globe. Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and higher temperatures can affect how a plant is able to hold on to water vapor and keep from drying out.

This can really have an impact on staple crops such as wheat and rice. If the plants aren’t able to adjust appropriately, farmers could lose valuable crops and people might go hungry as a result.

Dashoff said that scientists have understood how stomata work for a long time, as well as the balance between the intake of carbon dioxide and the loss of water vapor. What they haven’t known, up until this point, is how plants “sense carbon dioxide to signal stomata to open and close in response to changing carbon dioxide levels.”

Now that they understand the signals, researchers can edit them so that the plants are able to balance things out and maintain their water. It can really shape the way that plants work in the future.

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