The climate supergrass

No, not the Climategate 2.0 email release lat last year. Not the Himalayan glaciers, which even the Grauniad concedes are pretty much the same now as they were a decade ago (it’s still “a concern”, natch – it’ll always be a concern as long as someone’s being paid to be concerned about it). Not even the German environmentalist turned sceptic, Fritz Vahrenholt, who’s written a book describing how he’s stopped believing in warble gloaming and now think’s it guff (H/T WUWT).

In fact the climate supergrass isn’t that kind of grass at all. It’s a grassy type grass, but we’re told it’s super at longevity and is probably the oldest living thing on the planet.

Australian scientists sequenced the DNA of samples of the giant seagrass, Posidonia oceanic, from 40 underwater meadows in an area spanning more than 2,000 miles, from Spain to Cyprus.
The analysis, published in the journal PLos ONE, found the seagrass was between 12,000 and 200,000 years old and was most likely to be at least 100,000 years old. This is far older than the current known oldest species, a Tasmanian plant that is believed to be 43,000 years old.

Not this one *

Prof Carlos Duarte, from the University of Western Australia, said the seagrass has been able to reach such old age because it can reproduce asexually and generate clones of itself. Organisms that can only reproduce sexually are inevitably lost at each generation, he added.

In other words it’s not a 100,000 year old individual plant at all. It’s just been producing clones for that long. Never mind, that’s not the interesting bit anyway.

But Prof Duarte said that while the seagrass is one of the world’s most resilient organisms, it has begun to decline due to coastal development and global warming.
“If climate change continues, the outlook for this species is very bad,” he said.”The seagrass in the Mediterranean is already in clear decline due to shoreline construction and declining water quality and this decline has been exacerbated by climate change. As the water warms, the organisms move slowly to higher altitudes. The Mediterranean is locked to the north by the European continent.
“They cannot move. The outlook is very bad.”

If climate change continues? If? Carlos, climate change has been continuing throughout the whole time this grass has been around (and much longer) and yet it’s still here. I mean, here’s what Posidonia’s been putting up with in the last twelve thousand years, the lower end of the estimates of its age.

From - click for linky

And here, covering the time from the best estimate of 100,000 years to the upper limit of 200,000, is a temperature reconstruction for the last four thousand or so centuries. The horizontal dashed line show contemporary temperatures.

Vostok ice core temperature reconstruction via - click for linky

In other words it’s been putting up with worse than we can throw at it, assuming that we are in fact throwing anything at anything climate wise, for far far longer – possibly for about as long as our species has even existed. And not only has it survived but we’re given the impression for the talk of how resilient it is that it’s done really well up ’til now. But despite coping with temperatures a couple of degrees warmer at least once and possibly more in its history, and also despite the barely whispered admission that there’s been bugger all warming for fifteen years, we’re supposed to believe that Posidonia is suddenly in a lot of trouble?

Yeah, riiiiight. Look, if they’d just stuck at the bit about coastal development I’d buy it, but these days it seems impossible to resist working in the spectre of warble gloaming. Without really believing it I’ve made cynical remarks that if you don’t mention warble gloaming at least once in your paper you lose funding and struggle to get any more published, but when it crops up like this, when we’re told a species that’s survived greater extremes is under threat because it’s getting too warm or because of the even vaguer and non-specific threat of climate change – something that predates human industry by almost the entire history of the planet – you have to wonder if it really is that important to name drop it.

Not that it’s fooling people as well as it once did. From the comments at the Tele it seems people are starting to look out for this kind of thing.

22 hours ago
What a load of bull-poo. Is it possible to get any funding at all without it being linked to AGW extremism? This thing has been around for hundreds of thousands of years; it’s going to be pretty immune from variations in climate, whatever the cause.

Almost as an afterthought coastal development and water quality is mentioned, but we don’t want to dwell on that. No point in tackling those issues until after we have learned how to control the climate.

1 day ago
Yet another ‘climate expert’ trying to get us to believe in the dreaded ‘climate change’. This plant, if it is 200,000 years old, has been around long enough to see off much more extreme changes in climate than have occurred of late. As my grandfather would say ‘pull the other one’!

1 day ago
The thing’s lived through a 100,000 year full-blown ice age for Chrissakes! Also, the Holocene maximum and other periods warmer than now. You don’t get to 200,000 without being adaptable.

Dale Long
2 days ago
I am amazed that scientists are so accurate in determining the age of seagrass by narrowing it down to a 188,OOO year window and then claiming that “climate change” is killing it off. Shoot! We don’t even know how old Nancy Pelosi is. And yet, global warming hasn’t melted her face! God must be laughing at the inanity of our so-called intelligence.

Predictably enough they’re met with shouts of ‘denialist’, a word that isn’t even in the bloody dictionary, from the Telegraph comments sections’ relatively recently acquired horde of reliable lefties and believers, though I didn’t notice any of them actually tackle the point that this grass has seen bigger changes in the past.

Funny that.

PS – one other comment bears repeating because it takes up another point with the article, or more likely The Telegraph’s reporting.

1 day ago
“As the water warms, the organisms move slowly
to higher altitudes”

Latitudes surely?

For the Tele these days that’s actually not all that bad, though less important than failing to ask about the changes Posidonia has already lived through.

* For those outside Oz, that’s Tasmanian Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Green Party. He is most definitely not 43,000 years old. Oh, or a plant.

Posted on February 11, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. It’s worse. It’s not the tele who wrote “higher altitudes” but Prof Duarte, or at least the PR person who wrote the press release and made up Carlos Duarte’s words for him, but which he didn’t bother to check.

  2. Welcome to Underwater Meadows. Mr. Neptune will be with you shortly.

  3. Anonymous for tax purposes

    It’s now February 21st.
    Where are you? Have you quit, or what???
    Interested persons want to know!

  4. I agree with Anon here.

  5. Getting a bit worried about the old Exile now.

    More internet problems?


    Shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible?

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