This article discusses how climate change will impact wildflowers, and those creatures that rely on them to survive. In western high country, a decline in wildflowers could trigger a cascade of changes.
Every summer, hikers and photographers look forward to bursting blooms of alpine wildflowers in the high country of the Rocky Mountains. But as the climate changes, temperatures are rising, spring snowmelt is occurring earlier in the year, and shrubs are encroaching – a convergence of stressors that could cause the flowers to appear in smaller numbers or even go extinct.
It’s a problem that affects more than just the scenic beauty of the area. A wildflower decline could tip over a series of other dominos in the ecosystem, potentially affecting soil nutrient cycling, pollinators, invertebrate communities, and the food chains that depend on them. Researchers are concerned about these changes and are studying these ecosystems, looking for hints of the changes a warming climate could bring.
University of Colorado postdoctoral researcher Anne Marie Panetta recently found a causal link between higher temperatures and the local extinction of one wildflower species, rock jasmine. Panetta says this short-lived species can potentially serve as an indicator species, showing scientists what might happen to other, longer-lived species