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Warming alters mountain plant’s sex ratios

Mid-elevation male-female balance now shifted to higher altitudes, study finds

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6:04pm, June 30, 2016
Valerian plant

MOUNTAIN CLIMBER  Male valerian plants like this one have moved up in elevation in response to hotter, drier climate conditions. As a result, male-female plant ratios have changed since the late 1970s, researchers have found. This plant is growing in the research team’s highest study site, at 3,790 meters.

In Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, male and female valerian plants have responded differently to hotter, drier conditions, a new study shows. Rapidly changing ratios of the sexes could be a quick sign of climate change, the researchers say.

Valerian (Valeriana edulis) plants range from hot, scrubby lowlands to cold alpine slopes. In each patch of plants, some are male and some are female. The exact proportion of each sex varies with elevation. High on the mountain, females are much more common than males; they can make up 80 percent of some populations.

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