Climate change forces early spring

Jul 06, 2011

Spring is hailed as the season of rebirth, but if it comes too early, it can threaten the plants it is meant to welcome.

A University of Alberta study shows that over the past 70 years has pushed some of the province's native wildflowers and trees into earlier blooming times, making them more vulnerable to damaging frosts, and ultimately, threatening reproduction.

U of A PhD candidate Elisabeth Beaubien and her supervisor, professor Andreas Hamann of the Department of Renewable Resources, studied the life cycle of central Alberta spring blooms, spanning 1936 to 2006, evaluating and the corresponding changes in bloom times for seven plant species.

Using thermal time models, the researchers found that the bloom dates for early spring species such as prairie crocuses and aspen trees had advanced by two weeks over the stretch of seven decades, with later-blooming species such as saskatoon and chokecherry bushes being pushed ahead by up to six days. The average winter monthly temperature increased considerably over 70 years, with the greatest change noted in February, which warmed by 5.3 degrees Celsius.

The study, funded by grants from NSERC and Alberta Ingenuity, appears in the July issue of Bioscience.

A second related study, published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, describes the development of the Alberta and Canada PlantWatch programs, which coordinate networks of citizen scientists who track development timing for common plants.

In gathering their data, Beaubien and Hamann built on a network of information about phenology—the study of the timing of life cycle events—that was started in 1936 by the federal agriculture department and has since been supplemented by the collaborative efforts of university biologists, government researchers and more than 650 volunteers from the general public.

Explore further: Fish found in suspected tsunami debris boat quarantined

Related Stories

Will global climate change enhance boreal forest growth?

May 16, 2011

With an increasingly warmer climate, there is a trend for springs to arrive earlier and summers to be hotter. Since spring and summer are the prime growing seasons for plants—when flowers bloom and trees ...

Warmer springs mean less snow, fewer flowers in the Rockies

Mar 05, 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 ...

Arctic spring comes weeks earlier than a decade ago

Jun 18, 2007

In the Earth’s cold and icy far north, the harsh winters are giving way to spring weeks earlier than they did just a decade ago, researchers have reported in the June 19th issue of Current Biology. The finding in the Ar ...

Recommended for you

Roadkill hot spots identified in California

23 hours ago

An interactive map shows how California's state highway system is strewn with roadkill "hot spots," which are identified in a newly released report by the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Da ...

Tagging and scanning for feral pigs

Apr 17, 2015

Innovative research using GPS tracking and thermal imagery is being used in an attempt to manage the destructive behaviour of feral pigs in the south-west.

Mexico boosts protection of near-extinct porpoise

Apr 17, 2015

Mexico is greatly expanding a protected area of the Gulf of California and boosting navy patrols in an effort to save the vaquita marina, a small porpoise facing imminent extinction.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

astro_optics
not rated yet Jul 13, 2011
When are we do for a calendar update due to Earth's precession??? Is anyone incorporating that fact into working out the "Season Shifts" due to "Climate Change"?
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Jul 13, 2011
Oh, Child.... what do you think leap days are for?
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Jul 13, 2011
The foreshortening of winter and the shift in the climatic seasons generated by global warming was statistically shown more than 30 years ago.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.