Yale Climate Connections quotes McDonough MacKenzie in article on premature springs

Yale Climate Connections quoted and cited research by Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie, a researcher at the University of Maine Climate Change Institute, in the article “In nature, premature springs are creating new winners and losers.” The average spring in the eastern United States is starting earlier as a result of warming temperatures. Some plants and animals that use temperature as a sign that spring is beginning will emerge earlier, while other species that take their cues from daylight length or other factors unaffected by climate change will continue to start their springs as usual, according to the article. This could create a breakdown in synchronization between interdependent species like plants and pollinators. McDonough MacKenzie compared leaf-out data in Concord, Massachusetts and found that trees’ leaves appear two weeks earlier on average than they did in the 1850s, while wildflowers have advanced their leaf out less than one week in the same period, the article states. Understory wildflowers depend on having exposure to sunlight before tree leaves emerge, when many species gather 60 to 80 percent of their energy for the year. With tree leaves coming earlier, the flowers will have less time in the sun. Just under a quarter of wildflower species in the forests studied have declined or disappeared since the 1850s, according to McDonough MacKenzie, but the reasons are not clear. In addition to climate change, increasing development, larger deer populations and decreased logging affect the wildflowers. But regardless of factors, “It’s not going to get better” for the flowers, McDonough MacKenzie said.