Plant behavior differs day and night, but what if there’s a sudden transition between these times of day – like in an eclipse?
During the 2017 solar eclipse, scientists in Wyoming, lead by Daniel Beverly, observed sagebrushes. These are the plants that are used to direct sunlight and is widely spread in the western part of United States.
Scientists measured the plant’s photosynthetic rate and its transpiration speed or how fast does its leaves lose water. It was observed through their instruments that when it started to become dark, sagebrushes acted like it was dusk, which means photosynthesis and transpiration rates dropped. When the sun suddenly came back, signals indicated stress in plants. Sagebrushes’ photosynthesis rate also dropped by 14% throughout the day that the eclipse occurred.
A similar study done in Europe in 1999 during an eclipse showed how a beech tree in Ghent, Belgium stopped releasing water while its sap continuously flowed. Beverly plans to observe again difference in plant behavior during the 2024 eclipse which will sweep from Mexico through the Eastern United States, this time with crops and trees.