More plant species responding to global warming than estimated news
22 May 2012

Far more wild plant species may be responding to global warming than previous large-scale estimates have suggested.

That's the conclusion of a team of scientists, which included a UC San Diego biologist, that found that many plant species, which appear to not be affected by warmer spring temperatures, are in fact responding as much to warmer winters.

The scientists detailed their findings in this week's early online publication of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For years, scientists have accepted that certain species are flowering earlier each year due to changes in climatic conditions, but many species - varying around 30 per cent, depending upon the region- appeared not to be affected. These species had been assumed to be stable - unresponsive to global warming and thus outside of concern for how they will change with increasing rates of climate change.

But the team of researchers, led by Benjamin Cook, a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, found that the apparently stable species are, in fact, unquestionably feeling the effects of rising temperatures throughout the year.

''Based on what we know from agriculture and plant physiology, we expect our results would be broadly applicable to many temperate regions where species are dormant in usually cold winters,'' said Elizabeth Wolkovich, who co-authored the study while a postdoctoral fellow in biology at UC San Diego.

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More plant species responding to global warming than estimated