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The SDSU ecologist explores how climate change is affecting California plant life.

By Kellie Woodhouse with video by Scott Hargrove

How is climate change affecting Southern California flora?

This question is at the very center of San Diego State University professor Lluvia Flores-Rentería’s life work.

She studies how plants interact with fungi and microbes, and how those interactions are influenced during episodes of extreme climate, such as drought or high temperatures.

Flores-Rentería is part of a $1.5 million endeavor funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to digitize specimen samples of California flora at 19 universities, museums and botanical gardens. This will make it easier for scientists to track changes in plants over time and measure the impact of forces like climate change.

Her research has already found that high temperatures and drought have a negative impact on pinyon pines’ ability to reproduce.