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Volume 606 Issue 7914, 16 June 2022

Living the high life

The cover image shows plants growing at altitude on Altar Volcano in Chimborazo, Ecuador. Extreme altitudes pose challenges for most forms of life, and flowering plants are no exception. But flowering plants have been found growing as high as 6,400 metres above sea level. In this week’s issue, Michael Holdsworth and his colleagues reveal a molecular mechanism that helps plants to adapt to the extremes of altitude. The researchers studied a range of plants, representing four diverse clades of flowering plants — thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), tomato, poppy and the grass Brachypodium distachyon. They found that plants use genetic adaptations to adjust their sensitivity to atmospheric oxygen, whose partial pressure decreases with altitude. By decoding the ambient oxygen level, the plants are able to sense the altitude at which they grow and optimize internal biochemical processes.

Cover image: Cristian Miño, Ecuador.

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  • News & Views

    • The economic value that the world’s ecosystems provide was first estimated in 1997, eliciting a wide range of reactions. How have such valuations advanced since then, and what are today’s frontiers in using these values for decision-making?

      • Gretchen C. Daily
      • Mary Ruckelshaus
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    • A high-precision comparison of the magnetic moments of two isotopically different neon ions opens a path to the search for elusive particles that could explain the unexpectedly low observed mass of the Higgs boson.

      • Gerald Gwinner
      • Roshani Silwal
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    • Two-dimensional materials made of carbon have been limited to monolayers of atoms, such as graphene. Sheets composed of connected buckyballs — spherical clusters of atoms — have now been made by peeling layers from a crystal.

      • J. Michael Gottfried
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    • Informing people once about physicians’ views on COVID-19 vaccination improves vaccination rates by 4 percentage points after 9 months. This finding suggests that light-touch educative nudges can have lasting positive effects.

      • Nina Mažar
      News & Views
    • High-quality genome sequences for 44 wild and cultivated potatoes will enable researchers to better study this essential crop’s evolution and develop varieties that can withstand heat and drought caused by climate change.

      • Juanita Gutiérrez-Valencia
      • Tanja Slotte
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