By: Ivy Eifert
Summary: The changing climate, led primarily by anthropogenic causes, is leading to major changes in regard to foliage. Leaves are beginning to remain red, orange, and yellow for longer periods of time than what they typically have in the past. The process of leaf senescence is lengthening due a steady increased temperature later into the Autumn season. Typically, this event caused by a steady increased set of temperatures extends the time period in which they are undergoing senescence, however it is important to note that periods of extreme drought and high heat will cause senescence to happen much faster. In other words, the warmer temperatures prevent the trees from losing their leaves completely and prohibit the tree from entering its hibernation period for the winter, or with drought in the mix, the period is shortened greatly, stripping the trees too early. Greenhouse gas emissions, a leading cause of the changing climate, are indirectly causing this issue, leading to the conclusion that - because humans are responsible for the large majority of greenhouse gas emissions - they are also indeed causing the bulk of this issue. Although this topic might seem insignificant, an extension of these periods of bright colored leaves has its costs and its benefits. An example of this is both economic boom or strife, depending on the region and its weather events. Additionally, this issue boasts several concerns about biodiversity across multiple ecosystems. Specifically, climate change and its effect on foliage is an indicator of a potential migration of multiple different tree species further north, altering the variables of ecosystems all across the United States and Canada. This issue is seen most notably in southern parts of Canada as well as the midwestern United States and will display noticeable effects in both the short and long term. This issue is one that is affecting our current global situation and is one that will affect even more aspects of our society in the future.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because its long term effects influence the biodiversity of multiple ecosystems across the country. Further than that, its short-term effects are influencing tourist communities as well.
I found this article interesting because it discussed both a prolonged and a shortened period of senescence. Also, toward the beginning of the article, it went into detail about specific examples of this phenomenon occurring in different areas across the globe. I found this interesting because it granted the article relevancy to various groups of people. The article also touched on the gravity of species migration, specifically that of the sugar maple, in regard to the loss of colors humans will see as a result of it. The author also gave examples concerning anthropogenic causes of climate change outside of the realm of greenhouse gas emissions, validating the vitality of our part in this topic. The examples given were pathogens and pests, as well as invasive species that are aided in their destruction because of the warming temperatures, thus proven as an indirect cause of human activity. Finally, this article firmly clarifies that some long-term effects of this issue are already completely apparent. This fact allowed me, as a reader, to fully grasp how important this issue is in regard to the health of our planet, all while making the issue both tangible and understandable.
Science in Action.
Dr. Amanda S. Gallinat is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Utah State University.
Dr. Gallinat’s research is relevant to this issue because it involves climate change’s effect on plant and animal species, and how those species will be affected in both the long and short term. Specifically, she is experienced in researching climate change’s effect on birds and the fruit that they feed on. Because she has made conclusions about the relational aspects of different species undergoing changes due to climate change, her research can help us to better understand the other species or communities that will be affected by this change in the duration of leaf senescence. She has also done research on leaves in their winter and spring periods, which is relevant to this topic because the way that trees respond to this autumn phenomenon can be viewed throughout the following seasons as well.