They say April showers bring blooming flowers – but the same could be said for global warming. A recent study conducted by scientists from Boston University, Harvard University, and the University of Wisconsin found that flowers are blooming faster and faster each year, with this year being the peak year.
Scientists used historical data collected by legendary biologists Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold to graph the values; they used data which was 161 and 80 year-old and nearly 80-year-old, allowing them to see how the flowering patterns have changed over the years. The time period spanned from the early stages of the industrial revolution, where man-made climate change was almost non-existent, to modern times.
They found that for every 1 degree Celsius rise (1.8 Fahrenheit) in average spring temperatures flowers bloom up to 4.1 days earlier, which means that some flowers can bloom earlier with even one week. The big question here is how well can plants keep up with this accelerating rhithm; so far, they seem to be coping, but it’s not clear if they’ll be able to do so in the future..
“It’s just remarkable that they can physiologically handle this,” said study leader Elizabeth Ellwood, a biologist at Boston University in Massachusetts. But Ellwood suspects that “at some point this won’t be the case anymore as winter gets shorter.” “Something’s gotta give.”
The effects are visible in most parts of the world – as the winter keeps getting milder and milder, plants can’t tell the difference between winter and spring; they don’t know when blooming time is, they start blooming sooner, but they body isn’t exactly prepared for this. This is why Ellwood says “something’s gotta give”.
Bret-Harte, who works in Alaska’s Arctic, has already found evidence that Arctic plants are not responding to warmer temperatures in the same way as they used to. Also, as nothern climates warm, southern plants kick in and become more and more competitive, leaving the native flowers with little chances to survive – sadly, the same thing is happening to animal species as well.
Though not a breakthrough, the study is a great illustration of the effects global warming has on the entirety of life on our planet; no creature, big or small, north or south, will be left unaffected – everybody will have to pay the price.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!