Will Global Warming Leave Plants Behind?

12-01-2006 // Hannah Schardt

SEVERAL PLANT SPECIES may soon be on the move to beat the heat from global warming, according to a number of recent studies. In a paper published last summer, Canadian researchers found that in as few as 35 years, suitable habitat for several species of Ontario's native trees will move northward at a rate of 2.2 miles per year. That means that trees that fail to keep up with that rate—either through natural seed dispersal or through human intervention—could die out. Also last summer, a Purdue University study predicted that California's top wine grape growing regions, including the Napa Valley, could become too hot and dry to grow premium grapes by the end of the century, causing the state's lucrative wine industry to move to cooler climes. These troubling discoveries come on the heels of earlier research indicating that Rocky Mountain wildflowers, adapted for short growing seasons, could be squeezed out by sagebrush, which moves higher up the mountains as conditions in the Rockies grow more arid.—Hannah Schardt

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