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USU Study Says Climate Change is Pushing Plants to their Limits

The Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday, Nov. 07, 2017

If you have a garden, there’s a good chance it is filled with signs of climate change, though they might not always be what you would expect. It seems obvious that as global temperatures increase, flowers might be inclined to bloom earlier. But Will Pearse, an assistant professor in Utah State University’s Department of Biology, had a hunch that the effects of a changing climate could be more profound. So Pearse, who has a background in evolutionary ecology, used unconventional statistical techniques to show that flowering plants may indeed be struggling to adapt — not just blossoming earlier in some cases but becoming less consistent overall in when they bloom. Those findings were published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. “Our work provides new insights into how human activities have altered today’s climate by contrasting the time a flower bloomed in the past to observation in the present-day,” Pearse said in a statement. ... Pearse said his next research project involves using analysis of plant data to develop a model for predicting when plants will bloom should the climate continue to warm — an important tool to help humans adapt to climate change, given that most people food starts out as a flower.

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