Centre for Biological Signalling Studies

How can plants adapt to climate change?

Cell biologist and associated BIOSS member Stefan Rensing explains how looking into the past can reveal the solution for the future
Prof. Dr. Stefan Rensing from the University of Freiburg. Photo: Sandra Meyndt
  • More than 500 million years ago, algae adapted to living on land and started the greening of the Earth
  • Research into the molecular and morphological processes of that time may help improve the adaptation of today’s plants to climate change
  • Prof. Dr. Stefan Rensing provides an overview of current research and is available for interviews

“It is well worth studying the enormous processes of adaptation plants have undergone to take the leap from water to land more than 500 million years ago. Understanding these processes is a step towards helping plant life to cope with climate change and preserving biodiversity,” says Prof. Dr. Stefan Rensing, cell biologist and Vice-President for Research and Innovation at the University of Freiburg. Together with Dr. Mona Schreiber from the University of Marburg and Prof. Dr. Sven Gould from the University of Düsseldorf, he gives an overview of current research into how plants transitioned to land in the recently published paper “The greening ashore: How plants changed the climate before we did”.

“We owe the diversity of flora and fauna that we know today, and the substrate on which they live, to the transition to land algae more than 500 million years ago,” explains Rensing. “In our article we set out among other things what is researched, what is still unknown and how a broad view of the past can help to come up with better answers to the pressing questions of today and tomorrow.” Findings into the molecular processes of those times and study of the genomes of extant species, in particular mosses and ferns, can reveal new information into how our present-day forests and agricultural plants may better withstand periods of heat and drought.



Schreiber, M., Rensing, S. A., Gould, S. B. (2022): The greening ashore. In: Trends in Plant Science. 27(9). DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2022.05.005


Prof. Dr. Stefan Rensing
Vice-President for Research and Innovation
University of Freiburg
Tel.: +49 (0)761 / 203-4397

Franziska Becker
Office of University and Science Communications
University of Freiburg
Tel.: +49 (0)761 / 203-54271