Plants have a new date with flowering

Published: Sunday 15 November 2009

-- Roy Thompson from the department of Geology and Geophysics, Edinburgh University, told Tiasa Adhya that by 2080 certain plants would flower 50 days ahead of schedule because of climate change. As spring moves up the calendar it is bound to affect the birds that cannot change their migratory patterns as promptly

On the impact of global warming on flowering

Plants are sensitive to temperature and change their flowering patterns to adapt to climate change. Hence the first flowering date also changes. Using our study at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, we calculated that for every 1C rise in temperature, spring flowering would begin 11 days earlier. For maritime climates, flowering would begin 16 days ahead of the start of spring and stop 12 days after spring ends.Under continental climates, further inland, flowering would begin seven days prior to spring, ending 11 days after it ends. So, by 2050, traditional Scottish spring flowers like buttercups, irises and geraniums would be available on Valentines Day, that is, before the winter ends.

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On the environmental consequences of early flowering

Since pollinators such as birds and bees would not be aware of the changes in the flowering pattern, plants would be at a loss. Even migratory birds might be affected if spring flowering starts earlier. As they arrive late, there would not be enough food and shelter. This would benefit the resident birds by allowing them to survive the winter. Some plants would be in danger of extinction because they might not be able to adapt to climate change. These events would lead to an ecosystem imbalance.

On the India connection of the 79 species studied

Edinburgh Botanic Garden has an extensive rhododendron collection with several Himalayan varieties such as the cinnabarinum, campanulatum, arboreum and the barbatum species.

On the impact on Indian varieties

Our map showed southern India and the Himalaya as the most vulnerable. In these regions we predict that the leafing, flowering and fruiting times are going to change drastically by as much as 40-50 days. Regions near the equator as well as high up in the mountains are hotspots for such changes due to global warming.

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