How plants and animals respond to climate change

Prof. Yvonne Buckley and Prof. Jenny McElwain

How humans use land and water is changing rapidly, and this, together with human induced climate change is having an impact on the distribution of plants and animals globally, degrading biodiversity and threatening the provision of critical ecosystem services.

“Understanding how plant and animal populations respond to changing conditions is critical for predicting how these populations will respond in the future.”

Professor Yvonne Buckley studies the impact that land-use has on plants and how they adapt to local conditions. A combination of global ecology, genomics, data science and predictive modelling is enabling key discoveries using a widespread plant (Plantago lanceolata or Ribwort plantain). Researchers at Trinity College Dublin are discovering how this plant is particularly adaptable
to many different environments and how we can transfer this knowledge to other plants and
production systems.

Professor Jennifer McElwain uses palaeobotany to discover how plants have responded to climate
changes in the past in order to develop a better idea of what will happen in the future. Plant responses to past conditions can enable detection of key environmental changes and their intensity.
The results from this research has led to the identification of certain plants that can be used as biosensors, which can detect accurately small environmental changes such as temperature, CO2 levels. These biosensors are used as a cost-effective test for climate -controlled environments such as indoor farms, greenhouses, datacentres and offices to improve air quality in closed environments.