Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Disappearing in MidSummer

A typical alpine meadow.

Wildflowers typically decorate the meadows in the Rocky Mountains through the entire summer; but, scientists have found that recently wildflowers have declined mid-season. The team of researchers suggests that warmer temperatures in midsummer are responsible.

"These meadows are heavily affected by snowmelt and temperature," said David Inouye of the University of Maryland in a press release. "Wildflowers use information from these natural cues to "know" when it's time to unfurl their petals." Dwarf bluebells are one of the earliest plants to bloom in the spring.

According to the experts, the warmer climate has changed the moisture levels in the community, thereby shifting the timing of blooming patterns. The scientists are concerned that the decline in midsummer wildflowers might affect insects and birds whose livelihoods depend on them.

"Some pollinators with short periods of activity may require only a single flower species; but, pollinators active all season must have flowers available in sufficient numbers through the season," the researchers wrote in their paper, published in the Journal of Ecology.

In the long run, this could end up affecting other plants that depend on these same pollinators.

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