How the Effects of Climate Change Impact Gardeners

There are many negative effects of climate change, including landscape fragmentation, groundwater depletion and extreme weather, all of which impact gardeners.

| March 18, 2013

Pied Flycatcher

One of the effects of global warming is species mismatch. For example, the pied flycatcher now migrates at the wrong time relative to the availability of its insect prey, and as a result has experienced population declines of 90 percent.

Photo By Fotolia/Rick Thornton

Reposted with permission from Climate Nexus. 

“Season Creep” and Its Impacts

As the planet warms, signs of spring are arriving sooner, while winters are becoming shorter and milder. This phenomenon is informally known as “season creep” in that the onset of spring is creeping earlier. The study of the timing of spring events is called phenology.

Season creep manifests in various ways. For example, flowers bloom earlier, including a week earlier on average for Washington’s famous cherry blossoms. Hardwood forests hold their green leaves 10 days longer. Spring snowmelts have shifted so that peak melt flow now arrives one to four weeks earlier. Growing seasons have lengthened by 10-20 days, and bird species are leaving earlier for their migrations.

Although much research is still underway, the signs point to a causal relationship between carbon dioxide, global warming, and the manifestations of season creep. In one study, natural variability explained only one-third the rate of “creep” in the arrival of spring. Likewise, decadal oscillations, or natural cycles of change, could not fully account for early streamflow, and researchers found leaf retention in hardwood forests was “consistent with other studies documenting measurable climate change effects.”

A shorter winter may sound great to those who eagerly await gardening season, but in many ways these changes negatively affect gardeners. Here’s how:

Frost vulnerability: High spring temperatures can create earlier flowering schedules. This leaves blooms at risk of a freeze. Although it sounds counter-intuitive given the “global warming” we’re experiencing, cold snaps are still projected to happen even during warmer-than-average springs. This is of greatest concern to commercial fruit farmers, who lose their crop if a frost destroys the flowers. Yet hobbyists who grow fruit and flowers will also be affected. For example, mountain-dwelling wildflowers are experiencing frequent frost damage due to early blooming.

4/21/2014 8:42:14 AM

I've been on this earth a long time and seen no changes,everything is cyclical.

charles rasmuson
3/23/2013 3:55:47 AM

It's been a mess ever since the North American ice shelf melted and the Great Lakes were formed.

samatha burns
3/21/2013 11:46:18 AM

Not only does this phenomenon affect migrating birds and flowering plants, but also pollinating insects. As a beekeeper and pollinator advocate, I am often asked if the issues plaguing our honeybees also troubles other pollinators, and the answer is Yes. Because of season-creep their emergence from winter hibernation, or their brood-rearing cycle, may not align with the availability of the flowering of plants they are accustomed to feeding from. Droughts and heavy rains can affect the availability and quality of a nectar source, and as a result we see a great reduction in the populations of our native pollinators. Thanks for sharing this article; it's very insightful, and I've passed it along to my followers.

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