In Professor Richard Primack's Lab at Boston University, we study the effects of climate change on the timing of seasonal biological events and species diversity. By teaming up with Henry David Thoreau and other local naturalists, we investigate how climate change is affecting plants, insects and birds right here in the Boston area.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Acadia National Park Update: Using transplant gardens to investigate climate change.
Caitlin McDonough MacKenzie
Greetings from Maine!
The view from a mountain transect, Acadia National Park
In Acadia National Park, we are investigating how climate
change, and specifically warming spring temperatures, affect flowering times,
and possibly the population sizes, of wildflower species. We are currently monitoring flowering
times along transects that run up
and down the slopes of three mountains, including Cadillac Mountain. On the southern ridge of Cadillac, the
transect begins in Northern hardwood forests and climbs through a pitch
pine-jack pine community to open granite dotted with shrubby subalpine
species. A hiker starting out in a
T-shirt will soon pull long-sleeved layers from her pack she ascends into the
increasingly cool and windy microclimate above treeline.
A white Rhodora flower on Sargent Mountain, May 28, 2013
Later this year we will use a common garden experiment to
explore the relationship between temperature and flowering times. To this end, we will create a series of
transplant gardens at elevations from sea level through the summit of Mt
Cadillac (1500’) using widely distributed species such as Rhodora and Low bush
blueberry. Each garden will be
filled with transplants from the different elevations in Acadia, as well as
plants of the same species from Concord.
In these elevation-created microclimates, we can test the roles of local
spring temperatures versus the original home of each plant species in
controlling its leaf out and flowering dates. For a certain species, such as Rhodora, if all the plants in
a garden bloom at the same date, regardless of their original source, then
temperature is a more important factor than where the plant came from and its
genetic characteristics. But, if
there is a difference among flowering dates of a particular species within a
garden depending on where the plant came from, perhaps populations at different
elevations (or different locations, such as Concord) have genetically adapted their
flowering response in relation to local conditions. We’re looking forward to using the common garden approach to
dig into these questions on the interaction of climate change, temperature,
flowering times, and local adaptation.
When you are in Acadia, please join me for a hike up the