Scientists Say Alpine Cushion Plants Help Other Plants Survive

Posted on February 22, 2013

Scientists have determined that alpine cushion plants help other plants survive in harsh mountain environments. These round plants have a cushion-like shape. The cushion plants create protective environments in these inhospitable places to help less tolerant plants. The cushion plant above (Silene acaulis) is one of the species studied in Sweden by researchers from the University of Gothenburg.

Robert Bjork, an ecologist and researcher at the University of Gothenburg's Department of Earth Sciences, said in a statement, "Cushion plants create additional viable living environments for other species, and are therefore important keystone species that provide the fundamental conditions required for greater biodiversity in the most extreme alpine environments. We have shown that the more severe an environment is, the more cushion plants do to counteract the reduction in phylogenetic diversity. This relationship would not have been discovered if we not succeeded in discerning the interaction between plants."

The research was published here in Ecology Letters.

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