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.
Lilies, Blueberries, Birds and More … All Sped Up<p>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 <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-019-00956-7" target="_blank">blooms nearly a week earlier</a> in the Appalachian Mountain region than it did 100 years ago. Blueberries in Massachusetts <a href="https://www.wbur.org/news/2017/07/12/studying-climate-change-walden-pond" target="_blank">flower three to four weeks earlier</a> than in the mid-1800s. And over a recent 12-year period, over half of 48 migratory bird species studied <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-02045-z" target="_blank">arrived at their breeding grounds up to nine days earlier</a> than previously.</p><p>Warmer spring temperatures have also led <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12452" target="_blank">beetles, moths</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12920" target="_blank">butterflies</a> to emerge earlier than in recent years. Similarly, hibernating species like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/srep11580" target="_blank">frogs</a> and <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/04/150413-utah-bears-hibernation-warm-winter-climate-science/" target="_blank">bears</a> emerge from hibernation earlier in warm springs.</p><p>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.</p><p>In Japan, the spring-flowering ephemeral <em>Corydalis ambigua</em> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1890/12-2003.1" target="_blank">produces fewer seeds</a> 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 <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04539" target="_blank">declining steeply</a>, because populations of caterpillars that the flycatchers eat now peak prior to the birds' arrival.</p>
Warmth Followed by Frost Can Kill<p>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.</p><p>In March 2012, Michigan cherry blossoms opened early after temperatures climbed into the 80s. Then at least 15 frosts from late March through May <a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/science-july-dec12-michigancherry_08-15" target="_blank">destroyed 90% of the crop</a>, causing US$200 million in damages. And in 2017, after Georgia peach trees flowered during an extremely early warm spell, frost killed <a href="https://www.ajc.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/georgia-peach-crop-decimated-after-warm-winter/3SFVEukXWLLJB0zSox9i4M/" target="_blank">up to 80% of the crop</a>.</p><p>Early springs also affect ornamental plants and gardens. They hasten <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0212010" target="_blank">allergy symptoms</a> and the appearance of <a href="http://www.totallandscapecare.com/green-industry-news/phenology-maps/" target="_blank">turf pests</a>. 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 <a href="https://whotv.com/2019/04/26/tulips-in-bloom-in-pella-ahead-of-annual-celebrations/" target="_blank">Iowa</a>, <a href="https://www.oregonlive.com/travel/2016/02/tulip_festival_expected_to_blo.html" target="_blank">Oregon</a> and <a href="https://www.michiganradio.org/post/blossoms-ahead-schedule-holland-s-tulip-time-festival" target="_blank">Michigan</a>.</p><p>Cherry trees around Washington D.C.'s Tidal Basin bloom at <a href="https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/bloom-watch.htm" target="_blank">dramatically different times from year to year</a>. They are expected to bloom <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0027439" target="_blank">weeks in advance</a> of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the coming decades.</p>
Springtime Shifts by Region<p>The start of spring isn't advancing at the same rate across the U.S. In <a href="https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GL085251" target="_blank">a recent study</a> with <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=A74aBb8AAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao" target="_blank">climatologist Michael Crimmins</a>, I evaluated changes in the arrival of springtime warmth over the past 70 years.</p><p>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.</p>
How Much Earlier Is Spring?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg0NDMwOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDA0NTgyNn0.88lEnl9pHbNcRYbHuAFuzxgx2bOheQltbGjXfZNUUAY/img.png?width=980" id="de124" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18e75bfd42315b547caaddddf4bac7bf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Help Scientists Document Change<p>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.</p><p>One important way to fill knowledge gaps is documenting what's happening on the ground. The USA National Phenology Network runs a program called <a href="http://www.naturesnotebook.org/" target="_blank">Nature's Notebook</a> 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.</p><p>These data have been used in over <a href="https://www.usanpn.org/publications" target="_blank">80 studies</a>, 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.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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.
Tool Maintenance<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA4ODc1My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NTkwOTk2N30.hkjPy_HBXpcGN5VO17b3X4ajSKEusLv2pcerStKlKe4/img.jpg?width=980" id="c64a0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="714609ce8150e039db3a31d74d88f286" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Hose Repair<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA4ODc1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTY5ODM1Mn0.5xmze--FN2FTVco252fwsqbXc7OXJUVGOWfSCoR0Pwk/img.jpg?width=980" id="17aed" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="10e570d03c6ad7a27b840bddb82305da" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Mulching<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA4ODc2Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2Mjk3NzY0Nn0.lSKEQnIZtdUNPMja2oCgnCS8v0NWkywrY0fRzG3VvJs/img.jpg?width=980" id="7b482" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="796853ece8704090cc87f52b5447d640" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Build Something with Wood<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA4ODc4Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTMwNjQ2Mn0.OQWw9CNw0Ue7Afr4lNAFZdC5VYPcSyss70cbX9DSRD8/img.jpg?width=980" id="697a2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8fcecb95c81fa5a8aaf6ff9a404a1748" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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.
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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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