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Climate Change Impacts on Secondary Metabolites of Plants


As an Undergraduate Biological Sciences teacher, you can use this set of computer based tools to enable students in developing a comprehensive understanding about the core topics of plant pathology, mycology, plant response to biotic stress and medicinal botany. Plants being immobile, synthesize a diversity of chemical compounds predominantly for their protection against predators and microbes. These compounds are either secreted or accumulated within the biosynthetic cells; and are classified as primary and secondary metabolites.

Primary metabolites are essential for basic photosynthesis, growth and development of plants whereas, secondary metabolites include pigments, antibiotics, toxins, alkaloids, scents that are synthesized in different parts of the plants according to their utilization. They play an important role in defense mechanisms, act as important signaling molecules under different environmental stresses and thus play a crucial role in adaptation of plants to changing climatic conditions. A rapid alteration in climate affected the biosynthesis and accumulation of secondary metabolites in plants.

This lesson will help students understand the importance of secondary metabolites, its biosynthesis and their role in plant defense responses. Secondary metabolites are not only important for plants to defend, but are highly useful to humans for their medicinal uses such as anti-diabetic, anti-cancerous, and anti-viral compounds; anti-ageing properties, anthelmintic properties, immunosuppressant attributes, cholesterol lowering effects and many more. STudents will also learn how climate change disrupts the delicate balance of the ecosystems, altering the temperature and precipitation patterns; thereby, affecting the production of secondary metabolites in plants. These compounds, critical for defense and adaptation, may undergo shifts, potentially impacting plant resilience and their interaction with other organisms.

Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in the Biological Sciences.


Learning Outcome

The tools in this lesson plan will enable students to:

  1. Understand and comprehend the definition of secondary metabolites in plants and how they contribute to various ecological and physiological functions.
  2. Identify key environmental factors affected by climate change such as temperature, light, water availability and nutrients that can influence the synthesis of secondary metabolites.
  3. Analyze the intricate interactions between climate change factors and CO2 levels.
  4. Understand and predict potential outcomes of these interactions on plant health, defense mechanisms and interactions with other organisms considering the border ecological implications.
  5. Connect with broader themes such as biodiversity loss, ecosystem resilience.
  6. Apply gained knowledge to real world scenarios by assessing the impact of climate change on specific plant species and their secondary metabolite profiles, fostering critical thinking and problem solving skills.
  7. Develop skills for understanding the importance of secondary metabolites in the plant world, for their essential survival, growth and developmental patterns.
  8. Engage in discussions on possible strategies for the mitigation of negative effects of climate change on secondary metabolite production, promoting a proactive approach to environmental challenges and sustainable management.
  9. Foster a sense of responsibility towards environmental stewardship.

Teacher-contributed lesson plan by Dr. Pamil Tayal, Assistant Professor, Department of Botany, Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi.


Mapped Sustainable Development Goal(s),apart from 4 and 13


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