Aldo Leopold Foundation Senior Fellow Stan Temple, along with scientists from Boston and Harvard Universities, used data from long-term phenology records initiated by Aldo Leopold and Henry David Thoreau to examine the relationship between spring temperatures and flowering dates. Those historical relationships allowed them to correctly predict how spring wildflowers responded to record-setting warm temperatures in 2012. Their research shows that spring flowering is still coming earlier and earlier as spring temperatures rise. If there are physiological constraints limiting how early plants can flower, they have not yet been reached. These results can help to predict plant responses to a warmer climate, essential for commercial production in spring-flowering fruit trees and other crops. They also indicate that a continued trend of earlier flowering may pose problems for pollination if responses of pollinators to climatic changes don’t keep pace.
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