Plant Physiological Ecology 3rd ed
Foreword Third Edition
How do and will ‘plants cope’ in the face of global environmental change?Temperatures, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases are rising at an unprece-dented rate. Urbanization, with its expanding and destructive human footprint, continues to sweep across and impact all ecosystems. Climatic extremes, like hurricane- or typhoon-associated ﬂoods, deep frosts and even deeper snows, and the most extreme droughts ever recorded are now part of every day, every year, and in every place. These are, Earth’s ‘new normals’. And as alarming as these facts are, the ﬁeld of plant physiological ecology (P2E) thrives, because it is a ﬁeld of science that is and will provide some of the most critical evidence and fundamental understanding about how the diversity of plant adaptations, at the center of its investigations, will allow plants to handle the conditions of the Anthropocene. Such understanding will also reveal how we can best use the information gathered from basic ecophysiological research to help stakeholders – humanity –‘change course’ and take new roads to crafting solutions for preserving biodiversity and the planet that harbors it writ large.
Investigations focused on the physiological adaptations plants have come to possess over their long evolutionary history can teach us not only about the nature of the adaptation-environment nexus, but also reveal what to expect when plants are challenged by the conditions they now face on Earth that are outside of their previous (evolutionary) experiences. Since the last addition of this book, the aforementioned issues have become the centerpiece around which modern plant ecophysiological investigations often hinge. The data plant physiological ecologists gather on how plants function and cope with environmental challenges also serve to inform other types of plant research at levels of biological organization, both below at the cellular and molecular scales and above at the population, community, and ecosystem levels. Plant ecophysiological information also continues to be integral to the study of biological evolution, as it helps to reveal how adaptations are identiﬁed and how they serve the plants that possess them. For me, I have long advocated for the central role that plant physiological ecology has, can, and should play in our fundamental understanding of plant adaptations (e.g., the ﬁeld of physio-logical ecology is essentially studying the ‘basis’ of plant adaptations to their biotic and abiotic environments). But plant ecophysiology is also likely to play a greater and greater role in designing best practices for mitigating humanity’s assault on the organisms that sustain us and Earth – plants.
As the third edition of this textbook emerges, the students and scientists who will build upon the information it contains have a new responsibility, a new weight, and new opportunities to add their voices in new ways. As a community, plant ecophysiologists also have a frontier of new prospects to not just build upon our fundamental knowledge, but to also innovate and surprise ‘science’ and the academy. New technological advances in micro-scopic imaging, in quantifying ﬂuxes into and out of plants (at scales from the sub-cellular to the globe), in characterizing with much more rigor plant interactions with their microbiome, and in modeling form-function relationships and how they inform plant trait evolution and ecosystem functions are ﬁrmly part of the ‘new toolkit’ of modern plant ecophysiology. Healthy debate on best (new) methods and best practices still marshals on and this is good – good for the credibility of the information we as a community are providing to the plant sciences and for those who are adding their talents and ideas on how we can deepen our understanding of plant functions. Without debate and opinions, we cease to have a productive dialogue, and our science becomes ‘comfortable’, even complacent and risks becoming less relevant. But plant physiological ecology is very relevant in the many ways highlighted above, and may more ways.
Students continue to ponder the age-old questions of – what will I do in my life ahead, how can I make a difference with my profession or vocation, and how can I, we, make our planet a better place? Such questions move to answer – through knowledge, understanding, a belief in evidence, a passion for ‘place’, and then participating in doing plant physiological ecology (P2E). P2E is a hub around which the plant world and the Earth revolves – onwards.
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|January 26, 2022|