Article Excerpt: At her home on St. Helena Island, Laura Lee Rose has already watched blooms appear on pepper and tomato plants that survived the winter in pots.
“That’s kind of crazy,” said Rose, a horticulture agent and county office coordinator for Clemson Extension in Beaufort County. “I just feel like everything seemed to bloom a little bit earlier.”
Rose’s observation is backed up by data from a group that tracks such things. The Lowcountry and much of South Carolina experienced its earliest spring on record over a period of almost 40 years, according to modeling by the USA National Phenology Network.
Climate change makes earlier springs more likely, though it doesn’t explain one year with early blooms, said Alyssa Rosemartin, a partner and applications specialist with the USA National Phenology Network. Just as climate change makes more intense storms more likely while not being the sole reason for one big hurricane, she noted.
Gradual changes in the climate could throw animal and plant cycles out of sync. Insects that plants depend on for pollination, for example, might not be developed enough to feed on nectar and carry pollen if blooms come too early.
As budburst.org explains, “when these changes happen consistently over many years, the timing of events such as flowering, leafing, insect emergence, and allergies can impact how plants, animals, and humans are able to thrive in their environments.”
“We can see a mismatch between, for example, birds and their food resources,” Rosemartin said. “I live in Massachusetts — I saw where the leaves started coming out early, which is the right time for the caterpillars to emerge. But the birds haven’t migrated through yet, so that’s a time they’re missing the caterpillars they might feed on.”