Will ferns play a key role in mitigating climate change for some forests?

Polystichum munitum. Photo by Emily B. Limm. Published in American Journal of Botany

There’s an interesting paper in the July edition of the American Journal of Botany, Polystichum munitum (Dryopteridaceae) varies geographically in its capacity to absorb fog water by foliar uptake within the redwood forest ecosystem by Drs. Emily Limm and Todd Dawson. The ferns are an important part of the redwood forest ecosystem as they pull their water from fog. Climate change increases droughts and the ferns are suffering as a result. Dr Emily Limm of UC Berkeley said: “If climate change causes further shrinkage of these ferns, this will change how fog water is distributed on the forest floor and may lead to dramatic changes in how the redwood understory functions.”

While the paper might be another grim warning about climate change there’s more positive news about public involvement. The public helped gather the data about P.munitium abundance around Oakland, California. Limm said: “I’ve often heard people exclaim that they never realized that there where even plants on the forest floor in the redwood forest because they are always looking up at the giant coast redwoodsโ€ฆAfter they learn about P. munitum’s amazing ability to absorb fog water through their leaves in much higher rates than the coast redwood, they often tell me that they will never look at a fern the same way again.”

If Dryopteridaceae are your thing we also have a couple of recent papers now available for free.

  • Quintanilla LG, Escuderos A. 2006. Spore Fitness Components Do Not Differ Between Diploid and Allotetraploid Species of Dryopteris (Dryopteridaceae). Annals of Botany 98(3):609-618. doi:10.1093/aob/mcl137
  • Tani T, Kudo G. 2005. Overwintering Leaves of a Forest-floor Fern, Dryopteris crassirhizoma (Dryopteridaceae): a Small Contribution to the Resource Storage and Photosynthetic Carbon Gain. Annals of Botany 95(2):263-270. doi:10.1093/aob/mci021

Alun Salt

Alun (he/him) is the Producer for Botany One. It's his job to keep the server running. He's not a botanist, but started running into them on a regular basis while working on writing modules for an Interdisciplinary Science course and, later, helping teach mathematics to Biologists. His degrees are in archaeology and ancient history.

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