What to Plant in a Warming World
With springtime in the air and the days getting longer, you may well be daydreaming about your garden or flower bed and the quiet weekend hours you hope to spend there in the weeks to come. But knowing what to plant as temperatures climb and precipitation patterns change around the world can be a challenge.
The planet just experienced the hottest decade (2010-2019) on record, according to NOAA, with 2019 itself ranking second-warmest year ever recorded.
At the same time, climate change's impact on precipitation patterns around the world has become a case of feast or famine. Warming is fundamentally altering the water cycle and shifting precipitation patterns. In many areas, rainfall has become either increasingly abundant or in desperately short supply, relative to longtime averages.
As we saw in Australia earlier this year, drought exacerbated by the climate crisis can lead to devastating wildfires. Elsewhere, in places like the American Midwest, extreme rainfall events are becoming more frequent, resulting in major agricultural losses that make the food supply we all depend on less secure.
That's some pretty heady stuff for a blog about gardening, we know. But it's vital to understand that when it comes to the climate crisis, business as usual will not cut it. Anywhere. Not in electricity production. Not in industry. Not in transportation. And certainly not in agriculture — right down to a home garden or flower bed.
Some plants are better suited to extended periods of high heat than others, while many can survive on less water (or conversely, can handle a little too much for a bit longer) than their pricklier peers.
Below, we've put together a few key tips on how you can adapt your landscape using plants better-suited for climate impacts in your area. As always, be sure to research what plant species are native to your region before buying and planting — your local biodiversity and natural resources, as well as the plants themselves, will thank you.
When it comes to our changing climate, it's fairly safe to "expect the wet to get wetter, and the dry, drier."
If the region you live in is already a fairly dry one — like, say, the American West, Middle East and North Africa, and much of Australia — you're likely to experience even drier conditions and occasional drought as the world continues to warm.
These concerns, of course, have far larger implications than what you plant in the beds around your front porch or in your backyard. But that's not to say picking the right plants for your particular changing climate has no role at all in making you a better steward of natural resources at a time when it matters more than ever.
As just one example, according to the EPA, outdoor water use, including the watering of lawns and gardens, accounts for about 30 percent of all residential water use in the U.S., and that number "can be much higher in drier parts of the country and in more water-intensive landscapes." So it makes sense that opting for plants that are able to thrive in drier conditions can also help rein in your home water use at a time when water resources can become strained.
But which plants are less thirsty and more resilient during periods of drought?
Lavender is a particularly popular — and wonderfully fragrant — common plant that "has evolved to subsist on little water."
Cushion spurge (Euphorbia), with its pale green leaves and yellow bracts, is an especially good drought-tolerant plant for gardens in cooler climes. And ornamental grasses tend to be both aesthetically pleasing and drought tolerant, more generally. Feather reed grass, blue fescue, fountain grass, and big bluestem (called "Monarch of the Prairie" by some), in particular, will all survive periods of water shortage while still looking great.
If more conventional flowers are your thing, consider peonies, geraniums, butterfly weed, baby's breath, sedum, and coneflower, all of which require a bit less water than many other common garden flowers.
It's important to note that the perennials above are only truly drought-tolerant once they have been fully established. This means that in their first and sometimes second years, they will require a little more water and care. And as with all plants, if you are in the U.S., you should check to make sure it is a good fit for your USDA Hardiness Zone.
"Worldwide, since 1880 the average surface temperature [on Earth] has risen about 1° C (about 2° F), relative to the mid-20th-century baseline (of 1951-1980)," according to NASA.
It's important to remember that's a worldwide average; many regions have experienced more warming than this on the ground. But any change in temperatures can and will change where a plant can be grown — and some plants are better able to deal with periods of extreme heat than others.
A few of the plants mentioned above as being drought-tolerant can also deal pretty well with higher temperatures, including butterfly weed and purple coneflower.
Celosia, with its bright, feathery orange, purple, yellow, red, and white plumes, is a favorite for many American gardeners — and is well-known to "remain upright and strong even in sizzling heat."
And zinnias, gaillardia, purslane, and cosmos are all prolific, heat-loving annuals.
When it comes to perennials and other shrubs, if you live in a largely temperate area that experiences occasional periods of high heat, consider adding viburnum to your landscape. Its fragrant clusters of delicate white blossoms arrive fairly early in the season, often in May and June, and it does a famously good job of standing up to late-summer heat, providing birds and other wildlife refuge in the shade created by its eight-to-10-foot average height and broad, leafy boughs.
Yucca, a broadleaf evergreen, is native to some of the warmest and driest parts of North America, so it's no surprise that, according to Bob Vila, "When other plants begin to wilt in the heat, yucca stands tall and strong."
For a smaller shrub that does particularly well with higher humidity (it is a longtime stalwart in gardens across the American South), consider lantana.
Like we said earlier, "expect the wet to get wetter, and the dry, drier."
Put as simply as possible, climate change impacts our weather largely by putting our water cycle into overdrive. As temperatures around the globe climb, water from land and sea is evaporating faster. Making matters worse: Warmer air can hold more water vapor.
More water in our atmosphere means more intense precipitation and more intense storms. It's called a cycle for a reason.
So, if you are in a region experiencing more and more precipitation, and are looking for a great way to soak up some of the extra rain while keeping your landscape looking great, consider a "rain garden."
But wait. What's a "rain garden"?
"A rain garden is a garden of native shrubs, perennials, and flowers planted in a small depression, which is generally formed on a natural slope. It is designed to temporarily hold and soak in rain water runoff that flows from roofs, driveways, patios or lawns," according to Groundwater.org. "Rain gardens are effective in removing up to 90 percent of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80 percent of sediments from the rainwater runoff. Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30 percent more water to soak into the ground."
It's important to note that rain gardens are not ponds, water gardens, or wetlands. They are meant to collect and hold rainwater only during and for no more than 24 or so hours max after a rainfall event. Designing them this way goes a long way to keeping another persistent climate pest at bay: mosquitos.
Rain gardens are typically placed on the downside of a slope — the best location for them to collect excess rainwater runoff — and at least 10 feet from a house or other residence. Building the garden itself is a bit of a process, one with more than a few moving parts (luckily, Penn State Extension offers a fantastic primer on getting started). The good new there is that most work associated with rain gardens happens up front; once the garden is established, it typically requires minimal maintenance.
Just as some plants are drought-tolerant, other vegetation can easily withstand temporary excesses of water — and these are the plants you want to seek out for your rain garden. Be sure to seek out a mix of shrubs, perennials and grasses, and flowers that are native to your region.
Some shrubs that "are tolerant of inundated (flooded) conditions … [and] can tolerate standing water for a period of time" include elderberry, silky dogwood, winterberry, and swamp azalea. American beautyberry, red-osier dogwood, and Virginia sweetspire can handle pretty wet conditions too, but don't love it when standing water hangs around quite as long.
In the perennials, grasses, and ferns department, look to marsh marigold, switchgrass, goldenrod, cinnamon fern, and blue flag iris (among many others) for the wettest areas of the rain garden, and evening primrose, threadleaf coreopsis, blue mistflower, and boltonia for the corners that get a little less swamped.
Here at Climate Reality, we've long had a keen interest in climate-smart agriculture and the ways farmers and gardeners can do their part to help turn the tide on climate by taking action to fight this crisis.
It's important to remember that you don't have to manage a thousand acres to do something real for our climate. From edible landscaping to "lasagna gardening" and so much more, you can be the change you want to see. You don't even have to leave your own backyard to get started!
And when your neighbors, colleagues, or family members ask what you're up to, tell them you are taking action for the planet. Sometimes, the most powerful climate action you can take is simply talking about the crisis and the ways we can fight it and win together.
In the meantime, sign up below to join Climate Reality's email list and we'll keep you posted on the latest developments in climate policy and how you can help solve the climate crisis.
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The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.
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By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.
The Hedonometer measures happiness through analysis of key words on Twitter, which is now used by one in five Americans. This chart covers 18 months from early 2019 to July 2020, showing major dips in 2020. hedonometer.org<p>These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=0P0ZYbIAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">Aaron Schwartz</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10045" target="_blank">compared tweets before, during, and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas</a> in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.</p><p>Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as "no," "not" and "can't," and fewer first-person pronouns like "I" and "me." It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.</p><p>Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. Research has also shown that transmission rates for COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Is-risk-of-coronavirus-transmission-lower-15287602.php" target="_blank">much lower outdoors than inside</a>. As scholars who study <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=yFzb2EUAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">conservation</a> and how nature <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=CCnUeN8AAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">contributes to human well-being</a>, we see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for Americans' current blues.</p>
Park Visits Are Up During the Pandemic<p>According to the Hedonometer, sentiments expressed online started trending lower in mid-March as the impacts of the pandemic became clear. As lockdowns continued, they registered the lowest sentiment scores on record. Then in late May, effects from George Floyd's death in police custody and the following protests and police response once again could be seen on Twitter. May 31, 2020 was the saddest day of the project.</p><p>Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people <a href="https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/sd3h6" target="_blank">using green spaces more</a> since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being during the pandemic.</p>
<div id="4c7e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc0ac146ab2a94228f32d973fc2ab272"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1289428912879964160" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#Goldengatepark #sf #quarantinemood https://t.co/9l3ufnbkt6</div> — Suvd (@Suvd)<a href="https://twitter.com/Suvd19486406/statuses/1289428912879964160">1596258783.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees, but smaller neighborhood parks also provide a significant boost. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.</p><p>Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/2006.10658.pdf" target="_blank">Twitter study</a> to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.</p><p>Parks and public spaces won't cure COVID-19 or stop police brutality, but they are far more than playgrounds. There is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.</p><p>In a 2015 study, for example, Stanford researchers sent people out for one of two walks: through a local park or on a busy street. Those who walked in nature showed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005" target="_blank">improved moods and better memory performance</a> compared to the urban group. And a team led by <a href="https://penniur.upenn.edu/people/eugenia-gina-south" target="_blank">Gina South</a> of the University of Pennsylvania showed in a 2018 study that greening and cleaning up blighted vacant lots in Philadelphia <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298" target="_blank">reduced local residents' feelings of depression, worthlessness and poor mental health</a>.</p>
Creative Strategies<p>It isn't easy to create new parks on the scale of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park or the Washington Mall, but smaller projects can expand outdoor space. Options include greening vacant lots, closing streets and investing in existing parks to make them safer, greener and shadier and support wildlife.</p><p>These initiatives don't have to be capital-intensive. In the University of Pennsylvania study, for example, renovating a vacant lot by removing trash, planting grass and trees and installing a low fence cost only about US$1,600.</p><p>Urban green space is most needed in neighborhoods that have lacked funding for parks, especially given <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html" target="_blank">COVID-19's disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx people</a>.</p><p>Cities can also create parklike spaces by <a href="https://theconversation.com/with-fewer-cars-on-us-streets-now-is-the-time-to-reinvent-roadways-and-how-we-use-them-140408" target="_blank">closing streets to cars</a>. Many cities worldwide are currently retooling their transportation systems for the post-COVID-19 world in order to <a href="https://thecityfix.com/blog/bicycles-slower-speeds-livable-city-paris-mayor-anne-hidalgo-plans-ambitious-second-term-dario-hidalgo/" target="_blank">reallocate public space</a>, widen sidewalks and make more space for nature.</p><p>Urban designers, artists, ecologists and other citizens can play a direct role, too, creating pop-up parks and green spaces. Some advocates <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-15/a-brief-history-of-park-ing-day" target="_blank">transform parking spaces into mini-parks</a> with grass, potted trees and seating for just the time on the meter, to make a larger point about turning so much public space over to cars.</p><p>Or cities can invest a little more. Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Arlington, Virginia, have won <a href="https://www.tpl.org/parkscore" target="_blank">national recognition</a> for their ambitious investments in public park systems. These areas could serve as models for neighborhoods that lack access to parks.</p>
<div id="25fd0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="383f0d2df0237e9359c30dcce6cd6c42"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1276558744835379201" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Looking to safely get outside? Check out the best parks for social distancing in this year's top ten ParkScore citi… https://t.co/HJjEtDsrTD</div> — The Trust for Public Land (@The Trust for Public Land)<a href="https://twitter.com/tpl_org/statuses/1276558744835379201">1593190296.0</a></blockquote></div>
A New Park Deal?<p>The United States has historically driven economic recovery with major infrastructure investments, like the New Deal in the 1930s and the 2009 <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act.asp" target="_blank">American Reinvestment and Recovery Act</a>. Such investments could easily include nature-positive spaces.</p><p>Parks are not panaceas, as evidenced by the widely publicized <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/nyregion/amy-cooper-false-report-charge.html" target="_blank">racist confrontation between a white woman and a Black birder</a> in New York's Central Park in early July. But Hedonometer data add to a <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/7/eaax0903?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news" target="_blank">growing body of evidence</a> that they provide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1807504116" target="_blank">clear mental health benefits</a>. Creating and expanding parks also <a href="https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/f568e0ca499743a08148e3593c860fc5/economic-impact-study-summary.pdf" target="_blank">generates jobs and economic activity</a>, with much of the money spent locally.</p><p>We believe investments in nature are well worth it, offering both short-term solace in difficult times and long-term benefits to health, economies and communities.</p>
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New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.
<div id="7eb49" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="83819841e380a7072ec66d3186c160e8"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291705003984510977" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨RESPONSE to #Mauritius #OILSpill 🚨 “Once again we see the risks in oil: aggravating the #ClimateCrisis, as well as… https://t.co/PBLioZat6X</div> — Greenpeace Africa (@Greenpeace Africa)<a href="https://twitter.com/Greenpeaceafric/statuses/1291705003984510977">1596801446.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"There is no guaranteed safe way to extract, transport and store fossil fuel products. This oil leak is not a twist of fate, but the choice of our twisted addiction to fossil fuels. We must react by accelerating our withdrawal from fossil fuels," Greenpeace Africa Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager Happy Khambule said in a <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/press/11864/greenpeace-africa-response-to-mauritius-oil-spill/?utm_campaign=oil&utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=post&utm_content=single-image&utm_term=mauritius-oil-spill-reactive" target="_blank">statement Friday</a>. "Once again we see the risks in oil: aggravating the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-crisis" target="_self">climate crisis</a>, as well as devastating oceans and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/biodiversity" target="_self">biodiversity</a> and threatening local livelihoods around some of Africa's most precious lagoons."</p>
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By Gianna-Carina Grün
While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.
What's the Current Global Trend?<p>The goal for all countries is to make it to the blue part of the chart and stay there. Countries and territories in this section reported zero new cases both this week (past seven days) and the week before.</p><p>Currently, that is the case for 14 out of 209 countries and territories. </p>
How Has the Covid-19 Trend Evolved Over the Past Weeks?<p>The situation has improved slightly: 87 countries report more cases this week than last week. </p>
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