Across much of the U.S., a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception. In parts of the Southeast, spring has arrived weeks earlier than normal and may turn out to be the warmest spring on record.
Apple blossoms in March and an earlier start to picnic season may seem harmless and even welcome. But the early arrival of springtime warmth has many downsides for the natural world and for humans.
Rising temperatures in the springtime signal plants and animals to come alive. Across the U.S. and worldwide, climate change is steadily disrupting the arrival and interactions of leaf buds, cherry blossoms, insects and more.
In my work as a plant ecologist and director of the USA National Phenology Network, I coordinate efforts to track the timing of seasonal events in plants and animals. Dramatically earlier spring activity has been documented in hundreds of species around the globe.
Lilies, Blueberries, Birds and More … All Sped Up
Records managed by the USA National Phenology Network and other organizations prove that spring has accelerated over the long term. For example, the common yellow trout lily blooms nearly a week earlier in the Appalachian Mountain region than it did 100 years ago. Blueberries in Massachusetts flower three to four weeks earlier than in the mid-1800s. And over a recent 12-year period, over half of 48 migratory bird species studied arrived at their breeding grounds up to nine days earlier than previously.
Warmer spring temperatures have also led beetles, moths and butterflies to emerge earlier than in recent years. Similarly, hibernating species like frogs and bears emerge from hibernation earlier in warm springs.
All species don't respond to warming the same way. When species that depend on one another — such as pollinating insects and plants seeking pollination - don't respond similarly to changing conditions, populations suffer.
In Japan, the spring-flowering ephemeral Corydalis ambigua produces fewer seeds than in previous decades because it now flowers earlier than when bumblebees, its primary pollinators, are active. Similarly, populations of pied flycatchers – long-distance migrating birds that still arrive at their breeding grounds at the regular time – are declining steeply, because populations of caterpillars that the flycatchers eat now peak prior to the birds' arrival.
Warmth Followed by Frost Can Kill
Earlier springs can devastate valuable farm crops. Cherry, peach, pear, apple and plum trees blossom during early warm spells. Subsequent frost can kill the blooms, which means the trees will not produce fruit.
In March 2012, Michigan cherry blossoms opened early after temperatures climbed into the 80s. Then at least 15 frosts from late March through May destroyed 90% of the crop, causing US$200 million in damages. And in 2017, after Georgia peach trees flowered during an extremely early warm spell, frost killed up to 80% of the crop.
Early springs also affect ornamental plants and gardens. They hasten allergy symptoms and the appearance of turf pests. Popular species like tulips open up sooner than they used to a decade or more ago. In recent years, tulips have bloomed before "tulip time" festivals in Iowa, Oregon and Michigan.
Cherry trees around Washington D.C.'s Tidal Basin bloom at dramatically different times from year to year. They are expected to bloom weeks in advance of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the coming decades.
It's been an early spring in the southeastern U.S. What are you seeing? https://t.co/X9fEltVoLs https://t.co/dkN1zScMqD— ISeeChange (@ISeeChange)1581542191.0
Springtime Shifts by Region
The start of spring isn't advancing at the same rate across the U.S. In a recent study with climatologist Michael Crimmins, I evaluated changes in the arrival of springtime warmth over the past 70 years.
We found that in the Northeast, warmth associated with the leading edge of springtime activity has advanced by about six days over the past 70 years. In the Southwest, the advancement has been approximately 19 days. Spring is also arriving significantly earlier in the Southern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest. In contrast, in the Southeast the timing of spring has changed little.
How Much Earlier Is Spring?
Although the trend over decades toward earlier springs is clear, weather patterns unfolding across the continent can vary the start of the season dramatically from year to year at any one spot. The USA National Phenology Network produces maps that document the onset of biological activity over the course of the spring season.
The network also maintains a live map showing where spring has arrived. In some parts of the Southeast, spring 2020 has been the earliest in decades.
Help Scientists Document Change
While numerous studies have documented clear changes in the timing of activity in certain plants and animals, scientists have little to no information on the cycles of most of the millions of species on Earth. Nor do they know the consequences of such changes yet.
One important way to fill knowledge gaps is documenting what's happening on the ground. The USA National Phenology Network runs a program called Nature's Notebook suited for people of nearly all ages and skill levels to track seasonal activity in plants and animals. Since the program's inception in 2009, participants have contributed more than 20 million records.
These data have been used in over 80 studies, and we are looking for more observations from the public that can help scientists understand what causes nature's timing to change, and what the consequences are. We welcome new volunteers who can help us unravel these mysteries.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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By Brian Barth
Late fall, after the last crops have been harvested, is a time to rest and reflect on the successes and challenges of the gardening year. But for those whose need to putter around in the garden doesn't end when cold weather comes, there's surely a few lingering chores. Get them done now and you'll be ahead of the game in spring.
Tools take a beating during the year, and the offseason is the perfect time to give them a little TLC. At a minimum, wash off the dirt, dry them with a towel, and store them in a rain- and snow-protected place. You may also wish to sharpen cutting blades, and oil the joints on pruners and other hinged equipment. Hardware stores often offer the service for a modest fee.
Ditto on the TLC treatment for your hoses. There always seem to be a few leaky connections that you never have time to repair throughout the year. Often, all that's required is a new rubber washer in the female end of the hose. Any out-of-commission hoses that were cut or split open during the year can be repaired with an inexpensive coupling, rather than discarding them. You will find hose washers and repair kits at any garden center or hardware store.
Wise gardeners know that bare soil is the enemy. It washes away in the rain and turns into a brick in the summer sun. Late in fall, after the vegetation has died down, is a great time to take stock of the places in the garden that could use a covering of mulch. Besides, you're likely to have some fallen leaves on hand, a free and high-quality form of mulch that enriches the soil more than wood chips.
Build Something with Wood
Not all gardening projects need to take place outdoors. If you have a shed, garage or basement, along with a few power tools and a little carpentry know-how, now is a prime window for building that new planter box you've been dreaming of or the hand-painted birdhouse that your spouse would love as a Christmas gift. Avid gardeners never have time for such indulgences during the growing season, so knock yourself out while you can.
Reposted with permission from Modern Farmer.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Elliott Brennan
Food Tank has collected 20 of the best new books in food and agriculture to celebrate spring. Our favorite reads this season cover critical topics including the paradox of obesity and malnutrition, building strong communities through socially-conscious food systems and the essential link between food and health.
Travel from Italy to Puerto Rico and Australia and learn how people all over the world grow, harvest, sell and eat food—and why it's important to the future of this planet. Then, bring your new knowledge about food to the kitchen with various cookbooks and guides that will inspire environmentally-conscious, healthy and creative cooking.
The days are getting longer and the air is getting warmer, so take advantage of the weather for reading outside and dig into the season's best reads.
1. Bread is Gold by Massimo Bottura
Michelin-Star Chef Massimo Bottura's new cookbook takes a holistic look at food waste, focused on creating extraordinary meals from ordinary and sometimes overlooked ingredients. Committed to helping others eat and live well, Bottura's cookbook presents over 150 recipes from 45 of the world's top chefs creating inspiring dishes from everyday ingredients, encouraging readers to reduce home food waste.
2. Eat a Little Better: Great Flavor, Good Health, Better World by Sam Kass
In his new book, Sam Kass, the former White House Chef for the Obamas and the senior white house policy advisor for nutrition, shares his philosophy on food as well as practical solutions for making decisions in the kitchen that are good for nutritional health and the health of the environment. From shopping and organizing your kitchen, to cooking and reducing waste, Kass' book provides a wealth of knowledge for the dedicated home cook and 90 simple recipes from his time cooking for the president.
3. The Faces of Local Food: Celebrating the People Who Feed Us, by Charlotte Caldwell
In her latest book, Charlotte Caldwell provides readers with an intimate look into the lives of local producers supporting the food system. Through a collection of personal vignettes, readers can step out of the grocery store and into the shoes of the fishers, farmers, ranchers, chefs and many other food system contributors, and hear their stories. The Faces of Local Food paints a vivid picture of the meaningful contributors to the food system, and is a powerful reminder of the power of food to inform, transform and bring people together.
4. Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Land and Communities by Gary Paul Nabhan, Forthcoming September 2018
Food from the Radical Center is a message of hope in the face of very challenging political and economic realities in the U.S. Nabhan presents food production as a unique opportunity to unite estranged communities divided by political ideologies. Through stories from around the country, Nabhan illustrates his belief that "the restoration of land and rare species has provided—dollar for dollar—one of the best returns on investment of any conservation initiative."
5. Food Is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World by Matthew Prescott
Prescott's cookbook features an eclectic collection of infographics, photographs, essays and over 80 recipes that help protect the planet. Featuring original essays from James Cameron, Jesse Eisenberg, Chef José Andrés and many more, this book is full of recipes and ideas that are good to eat and good for the earth.
6. The Fruit Forager's Companion by Sara Bir, Forthcoming May 25, 2018
The Fruit Forager's Companion is a how-to-guide covering foraging, gathering and preservation techniques. Seasoned chef, forager and gardener Sarah Bir believes foraging is a "small act of civil disobedience" and encourages readers to look outside their front door to find unexpected ingredients for over 100 recipes, spanning from familiar fruits to less known treasures.
7. Fruitful Labor: Deep Ecology of a Small Farm by Mike Madison
Dive into the life of Mike Madison on his small farm in the Sacramento Valley of California. Experienced farmers and eaters alike will relate to Madison's story as he describes the ecology of his land, the agroecological challenges he faces and his personal understanding of sustainability. This book is a wonderful glimpse at local food production within the complexity of the larger food system.
8. How to Feed the World by Jessica Eise (editor) and Ken Foster (editor)
Eise and Foster tackle the pressing question of how to feed the 10 billion people projected to be living on the earth by 2050. Bringing together experts from various sectors of the global food system, How to Feed the World provides a foundational look at the modern food system, diving deep into the issues surrounding food and agriculture and presenting information in these complex questions in a way accessible for all readers. The book includes chapters on land use, climate change, trade policy, food loss and waste, nutritional health and social equity.
9. Knowing Where It Comes From: Labeling Traditional Foods to Compete in a Global Market by Fabio Parasecoli
Parasecoli's book tells the story behind the labels on food products from around the world. Knowing Where It Comes From provides a comparative analysis of food labeling systems giving a unique look at food production in different countries, including Italy, France, Costa Rica and Thailand. Parasecoli discusses how these systems affect consumers and producers and how cultural heritage and indigenous knowledge are integrated into food systems through regulatory and judicial processes as well as through activism.interventions by activists.
10. The Lost Crops Of Africa by National Research Council (National Academies Press)
The Lost Crops of Africa is composed of three volumes focused on grains, vegetables and fruits. Each volume explores African indigenous crops seemingly forgotten in today's modern era such fonio, tef, amaranth and carissa. Commonly overlooked by scientist, politicians and policymakers, this set delves into the potential of forgotten foods as cash crops and a way to build climate resilience and food security for communities in Africa.
11. The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution by Brent Preston
In this personal memoir of farming and contemporary living, Preston tells his family's story of leaving behind their city life and careers as human rights activists to start an organic farm in rural Ontario. The book covers their decade-long journey, describing their path to living on a small sustainable farm that is healing the land, supporting their family and nourishing their community. As an active member in the Good Food Revolution, Preston demonstrates what it takes to change the food system through hard work and perseverance.
12. A New Global Agenda: Priorities, Practices, & Pathways of the International Community by Diana Ayton-Shenker (editor)
A continuation of the annual series A Global Agenda: Issues Before the U.N., this book provides a detailed overview of the cross-sectoral ideas and multi-stakeholder partnerships connected to the mission of the UN. Readers gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of international policy, academia, businesses and civil societies as a result of United Nation's work.
13. No One Eats Alone: Food as a Social Enterprise by Michael S. Carolan
In a society increasingly dining alone, whether at work or in the car, the connections and community ties inherent in breaking bread together are eroding. Carolan dives into the importance of being food citizens and caring about the welfare of the people growing, harvesting and producing food. He also explores the impact of food on global health, regardless of economic class or race. No One Eats Alone teaches the importance of community and affirms that "real change only happens when we start acting like citizens first and consumers second."
14. Nourished Planet: Sustainability in the Global Food System by Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition and Danielle Nierenberg (editor) Forthcoming in June 2018.
Drawing on the diverse experiences and knowledge of renowned international experts, Nourished Planet charters a map for growing and consuming food sustainably now and in the future. Featuring essays and interviews from global food sustainability leaders such as Hans Herren, Vandana Shiva, Alexander Mueller and Pavan Suhkdev, among many others, Nourished Planet offers a global plan for food for sustainable growth, health, culture and most importantly, for all.
Going beyond honey production, Embry's book takes a look at the diverse variety of bee species native to North America. Our Native Bees offers a offers a wide-ranging, entertaining survey of various bee species that function at the center of the food system, and play a fundamental role in the natural ecosystem through their contribution as pollinators. Embry presents a wealth of stories and a cast of characters to bring his story to life.
16. A Precautionary Tale: How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved Its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement by Philip Ackerman-Liest
A Precautionary Tale tells the story of the people of Mals, Italy, in their quest to protect their lands and agricultural heritage against the influx of pesticide use by big agriculture. Ackerman-Liest highlights the power of citizen science and community action in this town's dedication to food, health and culture; which allowed them to ban pesticides through a referendum vote—the first community in the world to do so—providing a road map for others to follow.
Gabriel's book puts forward the argument for a transformative system of agriculture based on an old idea: the integration of forest, cattle and grazing land in one space. By combining these separate operations together, the silvopasture system promises benefits for the farmer and society through ecological regeneration. Silvopasture provides a comprehensive background on this systems approach to farming as well as engaging examples of its use across the U.S.
We Fed an Island takes readers along with a group of chefs who fed hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican people in the devastating wake of Hurricane Maria. Andrés' story highlights his efforts to address the humanitarian crisis through the power of food, and emphasizes the impact of community kitchens to activate change and rebuild hope in the midst of disasters. A portion of the profits from the book will be donated to the Chef Relief Network of World Central Kitchen.
19. What's Making Our Children Sick?: How Industrial Food Is Causing an Epidemic of Chronic Illness, and What Parents (and Doctors) Can Do About It by Michelle Perro and Vincanne Adams
Veteran pediatrician Dr. Michelle Perro and medical anthropologist Dr. Vincanne Adamstake a hard look at the links between genetically modified foods, glyphosate, gut health and the increasing number of children suffering from chronic health disorders such as gastrointestinal dysfunction and Autism Spectrum Disorder. What's Making Our Children Sick? explores the ability to improving children's health through food and offers insight to the current medical resources available to help heal affected children.
Wild-plant expert and forager, Pascal Baudar, guides fermentation fans, home brewers and adventurous eaters interested in concocting unique drinks from herbs, wild plants and other natural materials. Going beyond the typical ingredients of barley, hops and yeast, this book offers an expert look at using local terroir to create country wines, natural sodas, meads and regional drinks like Russian kvass. This guide not only covers the practical aspects of wildcraft brewing, but digs down into the history and philosophy of these traditional drinks, leaving readers with the knowledge to create their own brews using their local ingredients.
Elliott Brennan is a farmer and a Research & Writing Fellow at Food Tank. His research interests include global food security and the role of agriculture in economic development. He has a B.A. in English from Yale University.
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By Monica Bologna
If you’ve got a green thumb, you can start getting excited about winter ending and spring finally approaching. It is a good idea to start preparing your garden so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute. Here are 7 tips to prepare for gardening season!
1. Use an empty pill container to organize your seeds. Use a label maker in different colors to label what seeds are what.
2. Clear out flower beds. Dig out all weeds, dead leaves and debris of last year’s garden. You want to start fresh.
3. Clean out your shed. If you have a garden shed, you may want to go through it and organize things so it is easier to find your tools, gloves, etc.
4. Organize your tools. Check to see what you have and organize your garden equipment using old milk crates or other wooden crates. Also be sure to clean your garden tools so they are ready to handle anything.
5. Fix fences. It is a good idea to prepare little things like fences, boxes and gates now that the weather is still a bit chilly, so that when the warm weather does come you will be able to enjoy the garden and not be doing anything too strenuous.
6. Make use of things around the house. Old pantyhose can be your friends when holding up tomato plants and tying random things together. Also large hooks can be of use when hanging up your garden hose.
7. Make a plan. Organize when you will start planting what and mark it on your calendar so you can have an idea and not be overwhelmed.
Gardening is a fun, healthy, enjoyable hobby so if you can’t wait to get started, get out there now and prepare!
This article is reposted with permission from Eco News Network.
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