Plants are also forced to migrate due to shifting climate conditions
According to recent studies, plants are also forced to migrate due to shifting climate conditions in their original habitats, but due to the sheer speed of temperature increases in the current climate crisis era and the fragmentation of landscapes by human activity, they are finding it harder to migrate to follow their preferred climate conditions. The migration of plant species will be harder to achieve in the coming decades due to the barriers and filters in place that could prevent them from shifting in some places. Plants living in northern parts of the U.S. and the East Coast are particularly climate-sensitive and will be most affected by these human barriers.
A new study of mountainous areas shows that mountain ranges will not necessarily provide a refuge for plants in a climate-changing world. As mountain ranges warm, all of them grow more vegetation at their highest elevations, but in some cases, plant cover doesn’t expand uphill as fast as hospitable temperature zones do. This means that plants on those mountains that haven’t been able to expand uphill are now having to cope with hotter temperatures lower down, which could squeeze the viable habitat of certain species.
Because trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide, protecting them is essential to the fight to limit atmospheric carbon levels. To help them survive the shifts that are already happening in their habitats, authorities could encourage agricultural landowners to leave greenways between fields so that plants have space to grow and gradually drop their seeds further and further north or upland.
The western U.S., which is less densely-populated, has more “climate connectivity” than other regions. Conservationists need to do better at factoring the potential need for future plant migration into their work. When reviving a degraded forest or grassland, they should think about which species will survive there 30 years from now, rather than just preserving the past.
The Biden administration has promised to conserve 30% of U.S. land and waters by 2030, while a growing number of environmental groups and scientists are calling for the establishment of a “national wildlife corridor system” to protect ecosystems and help plant and animal migration in the face of climate change.
But conservationists will have to act fast if they want to give plants a chance to move. As temperatures continue to rise, plants are already starting to fall out of sync with their environments. In California, for example, wildflowers are blooming weeks earlier than they did a century ago because of warmer temperatures, while tree leaves are emerging weeks earlier than they did in the 1970s.
If we want to keep up with the changing climate, we’ll have to help them move, too. “We have to be looking forward,” McGuire says. “We have to be doing this in the next decade.”
Justin is an avid fan of cars and loves to take them for a spin around the block. Justin also has a bit of a blogging side hustle that he enjoys, as well as being a fan of Manchester United Football Club. When he’s not blogging or driving, Justin can be found playing with his two cats.