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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

From Walden Pond to the Sand County

Author: Guest Writer/Friday, January 18, 2013/Categories: Uncategorized

Knowledge of natural history requires good observation and sometimes over many, many years. Annual bird counts by amateur investigators and researchers alike provide essential data on changes in avian populations. Likewise, plant behavior over decades can provide even more critical environmental understanding. Now, data on the time of flowering, originally gathered by two of our finest natural observers, Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, has been re-analyzed to tell us a direct story of climate change. Concern is warranted.

Publishing in the online journal PloS One using the provocative title: Record-Breaking Early Flowering in the Eastern United States, researchers at Harvard University detail changes in flowerings (phenology) from original data collected at Walden Pond and Wisconsin’s Sand Country. As the lead authors comment:

“Changes in plant phenology have broad implications at the ecosystem level. Flowering and leafing out times signal the start of the growing season, and altered phenology influences associated ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration. Interactions with herbivores, pollinators, and other ecological associates may be compromised and lead to ecological mismatches.”

Reanalyzing the "first flowering" notes made by Thoreau and Leopold, 2012 showed the earliest flowering times in recorded history for dozens of spring-flowering plants of the eastern United States. These flowering results were over 160 years of botanical observations.

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    Initiation of Flowering, Walden, MA., and Dane Co., WI

This ground-breaking analysis of original flowering observations resulted from a research initiative---Assembling the Tree of Life---that was started by the Science Foundation in 2012. It will be fascinating to see other interconnections of 'Life on Earth' that show up from additional projects.

WHB

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