Sunday, April 19, 2009
Climate Change Destroying Walden Pond's Flowers
Climate change is devastating the flowers of Walden Pond, picking off those species that cannot react to rising temperatures.
Comparing data meticulously gathered by Henry David Thoreau more than a century and a half ago with more recent observations, Harvard biologists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that more than a quarter of Walden's plant species have already been lost. And an additional 36 percent are in imminent danger, including lilacs, roses and buttercups.
"It had been thought that climate change would result in uniform shifts across plant species, but our work shows that plant species do not respond to climate change uniformly or randomly," said co-author Charles Davis, a biologist at Harvard, in a release.
The Walden study shows that even small changes in temperature can have outsized impacts on plants that are evolutionarily adapted to fulfill ecological niches. Together with changes seen in other locations, like the unprecedented pine beetle damage in the West, the new work suggests that finely tuned biological systems are having a difficult time keeping up with the rapid pace of human-induced climate change.
The Painting is by Henri Rousseau