Navigation Links
Rocky Mountain wildflower season lengthens by more than a month
Date:3/17/2014

A unique 39-year study of wildflower blooms in a Colorado Rocky Mountain meadow shows more than two-thirds of alpine flowers have changed their blooming pattern in response to climate change. Not only are half the flowers beginning to bloom weeks earlier, but more than a third are reaching their peak bloom earlier, and others are producing their last blooms later in the year. The bloom season, which used to run from late May to early September, now lasts from late April to late September, according to University of Maryland Biology Professor David Inouye.

The wildflower records, made up of more than two million blooms, show that flowering plants' response to climate change is more complex than previously believed, with different species responding in unexpected ways. The combinations of flower species that bloom together are changing too, with potential impacts on insects and birds. Studies that focus only on the date of flowers' first bloom as most do understate these changes, said Inouye, the senior author of a study published online March 17, 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Phenology, the study of the timing of seasonal events, is crucial to understanding how climate change is affecting plants, animals and the relationships that bind them into natural communities. To answer these questions, phenologists are collecting modern data and poring through old records like amateur naturalists' notebooks.

"Most studies rely on first dates of events like flowering or migration, because they use historical data sets that were not intended as scientific studies," Inouye said. "First flowering is easy to observe. You don't have to take the time to count flowers. So that's often the only information available. It has taken a lot of effort to get the comprehensive insights needed for this analysis, which helps us understand how ecological communities are going to change in the future."

Inouye was not thinking of the effects of a warming climate in 1974, when he began counting flowers on a mountainside 9,500 feet above sea level at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Crested Butte, Colo.

"I was a graduate student studying hummingbirds and bumble bees, and I wanted to know what flower nectar resources are available for them, so I started counting flowers," Inouye said.

Others initially took part, but Inouye stuck with it. Eventually he set his own students to the task. By counting blooms in each of 30 plots every other day, up to five months per year, for four decades, the group amassed a data set of more than 2 million flowers they have counted. For this study, University of Arizona doctoral student Paul CaraDonna, University of Maryland postdoctoral research associate Amy Iler and Inouye looked at data on the 60 most common species.

Bloom times are changing fast, the researchers found. The date the first spring flower appears has advanced more than 6 days per decade over the course of the study. The spring peak, when masses of wildflowers burst into bloom, has moved up 5 days per decade. And the last flower of fall occurred about 3 days later every decade.

"The flowering season is about one month longer than it used to be" Iler said, "which is a big change for a mountain ecosystem with a short growing season."

Of all the species that have changed their flowering schedules in some way, only 17% shifted their entire bloom cycle earlier. The rest showed more complicated changes.

"What we show is that first flowering isn't always the best predictor of all the changes we find," CaraDonna said. "It's important to take a closer look in order to understand all the ways that climate change affects these wildflower communities."

The changes are likely to have a strong impact for better or worse on pollinating insects and migratory birds. For example, Inouye said, hummingbirds that summer in the Rocky Mountains time their nesting so that their eggs hatch at peak bloom, when there is plenty of flower nectar for hungry chicks. But as the bloom season lengthens, the plants are not producing more flowers. The same number of blooms is spread out over more days, so at peak bloom there may be fewer flowers.

Will there be enough food for the hummingbirds' young? To find out, Inouye plans to fit adult hummingbirds with radio transmitters and study how they interact with this summer's blooms.


'/>"/>

Contact: Heather Dewar
hdewar@umd.edu
301-405-9267
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Nitrogen pollution changing Rocky Mountain National Park vegetation, says CU-Boulder-led study
2. Increase in metal concentrations in Rocky Mountain watershed tied to warming temperatures
3. Drought in 2001-2002 fueled Rocky Mountain pine beetle outbreak
4. MARC travel awards announced for the 2012 ISCB Rocky Mountain Bioinformatics Conference
5. Expedition to undersea mountain yields new information about sub-seafloor structure
6. CU research shows warming climate threatens ecology at mountain research site west of Boulder
7. Accelerating climate change exerts strong pressure on Europes mountain flora
8. Global warming has driven Europes mountain plants to migrate 2.7 meters upwards in 7 years
9. European mountain plant population shows delayed response to climate change
10. IdentiSys acquires the Identification, Security and Presentation Divisions of Mountainland Business Systems, a Utah based reseller
11. NYBG press publishes final volume of landmark Intermountain Flora series
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Rocky Mountain wildflower season lengthens by more than a month
(Date:3/30/2017)... YORK , March 30, 2017 Trends, ... type (physiological and behavioral), by technology (fingerprint, AFIS, iris ... voice recognition, and others), by end use industry (government ... and immigration, financial and banking, and others), and by ... Europe , Asia Pacific , ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... , March 24, 2017 The Controller General of ... Mr. Abdulla Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award ... Continue Reading ... ... and Deputy Controller Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received ...
(Date:3/22/2017)... , March 21, 2017   Neurotechnology ... object recognition technologies, today announced the release of ... (SDK), which provides improved facial recognition using up ... on a single computer. The new version uses ... improve accuracy, and it utilizes a Graphing Processing ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/25/2017)... R.I. , April 25, 2017 ... Inc. ("EpiVax") has licensed its novel immune-modulating technology to ... autoimmune disease and allergy. Tregitopes, pronounced ... in human immunoglobulin by EpiVax CEO Annie ... Similar to intravenous immunoglobulin G, an autoimmune disease ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... ... April 24, 2017 , ... It is well established ... however, the broad application of this cellular target engagement concept to drug discovery ... Cell-based thermal stabilization assays are valuable methods for particular applications, but they can ...
(Date:4/21/2017)... ... April 21, 2017 , ... The ... announced first round funding to three startups through the UConn Innovation Fund. The ... new business startups affiliated with UConn. , The UConn Innovation Fund provides investments ...
(Date:4/21/2017)... ... 21, 2017 , ... Frederick Innovative Technology Center, Inc. (FITCI), ... businesses, recently earned a $77,518 grant from the Rural Maryland Council (RMC) to ... is Frederick’s first incubator. A non-profit corporation, FITCI is a public-private partnership of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: