It ’s an early blooming climate.

Anyone worried about human-induced planetary warming will know the increasing damage and turmoil that is directly related to rising temperatures. Sea levels have risen significantly, with more frequent floods in coastal areas, especially around the same time as the hurricane. More frequent and long-term droughts have affected some areas, including the Southwestern United States. Extreme temperature episodes occurred more frequently, causing deadly heat waves and wildfires.

In most cases, these are the expected direct effects of warming. But it’s natural to wonder if the focus on these direct effects is solely because they are the easiest to see and understand. On planets far from thermodynamic equilibrium of all kinds, the most serious consequences of warming can be indirect if abundant geophysical and biological feedback dominates. Many are just beginning to see.

As an example, scientists are closely monitoring ongoing and accelerating changes in the timing of important biological events, such as spring tree flowering, nesting and egg hatching, and autumn leaf color changes. .. Early evidence suggests that many are not changing fast enough to keep up with the current rate of warming. Such changes can also disrupt the delicate biological coordination of the activities of the millions of interacting and interdependent species on which the world’s ecosystems depend. These effects are far more subtle and unpredictable than the direct consequences of the warmer Earth, but can prove to be much more important.

Many of us find it difficult to detect global warming. This is only evident in the world average sea surface temperature, an advanced estimate of atmospheric CO.2 Fine statistical patterns of concentrations, or extreme atmospheric events. Attribution science as a whole is now focused on identifying individual events that may be associated with warming in a statistically significant way. But warming is also evident in other changes that are literally happening around us.

Biological phenology is a term used to study the timing of important events in the biological life cycle such as flowering, maiden flight, spawning, and migration. In Kyoto, Japan, the record of the first flowering of cherry blossoms dates back to 812. This data, and various other records from around the world (Y. Vitesse et al.,. Climb the nut.Change 12, 300-302; 2022) show that the dates of flowering and first leaves of plants remained almost unchanged throughout the 19th century and began to progress between 1900 and 1950 after the temperature of the planet rose. Since then, changes in the biological season have accelerated, reaching 30 days in some places. In 2021, the cherries in Kyoto bloomed on the earliest day seen 1200 years ago.

Of course, it’s not surprising that nature responds to rising temperatures. Species need to adapt and change their behavior to meet new conditions. Are they adapting fast enough? Worryingly, some studies suggest that many are not.

One recent study (Y. Song et al.,. AGUAdv. 2, E2021AV000431; 2021) We investigated the pace of bio-phenological changes in plant species in the mid-latitude and high-latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere and compared changes with local changes in temperature observed over the last 30 years. In this study, we used remote sensing to observe many species together and recorded changes in the dates of spring greening and autumn plant aging. In this study, there was a significant discrepancy between plant reactions and patterns of temperature change, with most plants lagging behind the pace of recent warming and shifting timing in the wrong direction. There is also. Studies have also found that these discrepancies are more pronounced in landscapes degraded by agriculture and other human activities.

The cause of this reaction failure is not entirely clear, but how plants react to changes in temperature is not simple. Obviously, higher temperatures always result in faster growth, but some plants require adequate cooling in the winter to prepare for growth, and higher temperatures can impair their readiness. There are other possibilities as the species react directly not only to temperature, but also to the changing activities of the other species on which they depend. Therefore, undisturbed area species may be responding more quickly because they are exposed to more signals about the changing environment. In contrast, slow-responding plants in zones degraded by human influences may be delayed because they do not have access to the normal signals that warn that a change has occurred.

Biological phenology is not only time but also space, as both plants and animals can adapt to changing environments by changing places, but plants obviously adapt more slowly than animals. This is another aspect related to nature’s indirect response to our changing climate and should raise considerable concerns for us. Ecologists also see abundant evidence that many species are gradually drifting further towards the poles as the planet warms. One of the results (CJ Carslon et al.,. Nature https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04788-w; 2022) can be mixed in habitats of species that have never encountered each other before.

Of course, migrating species carry parasites and pathogens together, creating countless opportunities for pathogens to jump from one host to another, finding new reservoirs for further transmission and evolution. With an estimated 10,000 different viruses that can infect humans that are currently circulating in wildlife populations, the natural migration of species in response to rising temperatures has many futures, including the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be expected to create conditions that promote pandemics. Carlson etc. Expected changes in geographic range of approximately 3,139 species of mammals in response to warming and in combination with expected changes in land use. Their analysis predicts the transmission of more than 4,000 possible cross-species viruses, many of which are likely to infect humans.

Of course, planetary warming causes more frequent and serious floods, fires and droughts, and rising sea levels. But seeing such direct consequences of high temperatures as the most problematic aspect of warming may only reflect our collective lack of imagination. Much more important can be indirect consequences as the entire ecosystem that surrounds and supports us begins to change unexpectedly.

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Correspondence to Mark Buchanan.

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Buchanan, M. It’s an early blooming climate.
Nut physics 18, 607 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-022-01632-w

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