In Your Future: Springtime In February?

Flowers snowFast-Forward Flowering

Do many plants seem to you to be flowering earlier in the spring? You may be correct.

One of the most interesting scientific articles I’ve recently read reports that plants are indeed flowering earlier, and, more significantly, faster than most experimental models have predicted.

(Excellent summaries of this report, including photos, can be found here, here and here.)

In summary, these investigators state that “…we have shown that warming experiments underpredict the advance of spring events observed over recent decades. Furthermore, when sampling the same species, the experiments failed to predict both the magnitude and the direction of plant responses to warming. Such differences between observed and experimentally estimated temperature sensitivities indicate that experimental results alone should not be used for parameterizing species distribution and ecosystem models.” (from Ref 1 below)

Briefly, these scientists used millions of individual observations of the timing of life cycles (phenology) of over a thousand plant species spanning four continents to show that current scientific models are failing to accurately predict the impact of global warming on plants.

Want to get involved and be a citizen scientist?

Then check out the USA Phenology Network (or other such networks worldwide) to learn how to be an observer and report your results.

Bottom Line: Projections of how plants will change with increasing global warming are very uncertain, and these changes may be greater than most scientific models have predicted.

1. Wolkovich, E. M., et al. (2012) “Warming experiments underpredict plant phenological responses to climate change.” Nature, Vol. 485, pp. 494–497. (Abstract)

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