Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Warmer springs mean less snow, fewer flowers in the Rockies

07.03.2008
Spring in the Rockies begins when the snowpack melts. But with the advent of global climate change, the snow is gone sooner. Research conducted on the region’s wildflowers shows some plants are blooming less because of it.

David Inouye (University of Maryland) used data gathered in the Rockies from 1973 to the present to uncover the problem. Writing in the journal Ecology, he demonstrates that three flowers found in the Rockies are far more susceptible to late frost damage when the snow melts more quickly.

Inouye looked at three blossoms that are common to the famous mountain range. Larkspur (Delphinium barbeyi), holds its intense blue star-shaped, hooded blooms on thin-stemmed plants that can be anywhere from 3-6 feet tall. Aspen fleabane (Erigeron speciosus) is one of the most common asters to the region, and its small, purple daisy-like flowers have yellow centers. And aspen sunflowers (Helianthella quinquenervis) are well known for their startlingly bright yellow flowers which are often found in open, grassy areas.

Winter snow can be as deep as eight feet in the area where all three of these flowers grow, at 9,500 feet altitude, but the snow has been melting increasing early over the past decade because of a combination of lower snowfall and warmer springs. For the wildflower, earlier snowmelt results in an earlier growing season.

Once the snow is gone in the spring, the flowers begin to form buds and prepare to flower. But masses of cold air can still move through the region at night, causing frost as late as the month of June. The numbers indicate that frost events have increased in the past decade. From 1992 to 1998, on average 36.1 percent of the aspen sunflower buds were frosted. But for 1999-2000 the mean is 73.9 percent, and in only one year since 1998 have plants escaped all frost damage.

When those frost events occur, the long-lived plants do not die but are unable to produce flowers for that entire year. Without flowers, they cannot set seed and reproduce.

Inouye says the change happening here may be undetected by humans casually observing the area because these are all long-lived perennial plants. An individual sunflower, for instance, can live to be 50 or 75 years old.

“But we find that these perennials are not producing enough seeds to make the next generation of plants,” he says, and without new plants the transformations within plant and animal communities of this ecosystem could be quite intense.

Many insects such as the fruit flies known as tephritid flies, which eat the flowers’ seeds, seem to be plant specific, he points out, and so they may disappear, too if there are no flowers to produce seeds. Parasitoid wasps that feed on those flies will then feel the loss, as well. Grasshoppers also feast upon the flower petals. And, these plants are eaten by many kinds of large herbivores, including deer, elk, cows and sheep.

“What will replace these colorful flowers? We don’t know,” says Inouye. “But we know that many animals depend upon them, and so the outcome could be quite dramatic.”

Inouye and his colleagues say that there is much work to be done on the topic of phenology, which is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events. These events are heavily influenced by environmental changes, especially seasonal variations in temperature and precipitation driven by weather and climate. There is even an important role to be played by citizen scientists, who can gather information for the National Phenology Network’s new endeavor called Project Budburst.

“In the future, we anticipate climate change will affect plants and animals in many ways, but information is needed on how those changes will play out for specific plants,” says Inouye. Some, he says, may bloom sooner and others may not bloom at all. Some may become more prolific and others may die out completely. Citizen scientists who volunteer to help record phenological events can make an important contribution to such studies.

Nadine Lymn | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esa.org
http://www.usanpn.org/
http://www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/budburst/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>