Last September I visited Rye, NY, a coastal town just north of New York City. The visit provided insight into the future ecology of eastern Massachusetts, as common species in coastal New York will extend their range northward and become more abundant in Massachusetts as the climate warms.
Native sweet gum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) are common in the Rye forests, and seedlings are abundant in nearby open fields; soon this species will disperse to Boston. Should we help sweet gum along by planting their seeds in places where our native Massachusetts trees are dying?
Non-native grasses and the invasive Japanese wineberry bush (Rubus phoenicolasius) grow on the damp forest floor, and in coming years, will spread northward into eastern Massachusetts and northern New England.
The human dimensions of climate change are seen in the Rye Meeting House; during Hurricane Sandy, the harbor was flooded and seawater was over three feet deep in the building.
One pleasant treat was dozens of monarch butterflies feeding on the white flowers of the native salt marsh groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia), another species likely to spread northward in coming decades.