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 Minimized water consumption in CSP plants - EU project MinWaterCSP is making good progress
05.12.2017 | Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum

nachricht Jena Experiment: Loss of species destroys ecosystems
28.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

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: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Midwife and signpost for photons

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

PhoxTroT: Optical Interconnect Technologies Revolutionized Data Centers and HPC Systems

11.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>