Global warming is causing some plants to flower early, while others can now survive the winter. Scientists have found that climate change may even threaten the dissemination of plants. Noelle Beckman, post-doctoral fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, says healthy seed dispersal is crucial for the survival of plant species.

Thistledown seeds blowing in wind

Beckman: “It’s a key process for the spread of populations and the movement of genes so it affects the species’ capacity for adaptation, and it also affects patterns of biodiversity across local, regional and global scales.”

… but rising temperatures and changing weather patterns associated with global warming are likely to disrupt this process.

Beckman: “All plant species everywhere would be vulnerable just because all plants depend on dispersal, and climate change will affect all aspects of dispersal in complex ways.”

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For instance, shifting winds could cause seeds to land in areas with improper growing conditions. Or with no wind at all, seeds could remain too close together, causing plants to compete for nutrients. Over time, these changes could alter the way plants are distributed with unknown consequences for plant species and the other life that depends on them.

Disclosure: Noelle Beckman’s research is supported by funding from SESYNC, where Lisa Palmer is also a fellow.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Aren Zolninger.
Photo: Thistledown (copyright protected).

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Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...