Climate Kills Wildflower! (False Alarm)

This is Androsace septentrionalis (Northern rock jasmine). Credit: Anne Marie Panetta

Breathless news out of Colorado Climate warming causes local extinction of Rocky Mountain wildflower species  Excerpts below with my bolds.

New University of Colorado Boulder-led research has established a causal link between climate warming and the localized extinction of a common Rocky Mountain flowering plant, a result that could serve as a herald of future population declines.

The new study, which was published today in the journal Science Advances, found that warmer, drier conditions in line with future climate predictions decimated experimental populations of Androsace septentrionalis (Northern rock jasmine), a mountain wildflower found at elevations ranging from around 6,000 feet in Colorado’s foothills to over 14,000 feet at the top of Mt. Elbert.

The findings paint a bleak picture for the persistence of native flowering plants in the face of climate change and could serve as a herald for future species losses in mountain ecosystems over the next century.

Always the curious one, I went looking for context to interpret this report.  Thank goodness for the Internet; it didn’t take long to find information left out of the alarming news release.  From the US Wildflower Database (here) we can see the bigger picture.

Androsace Septentrionalis, Rock Jasmine

Androsace septentrionalis is a small-flowered and rather inconspicuous plant, and is the most common member of this genus in the West, out of six in the US. Plants are very variable in size, reflecting the wide range of habitats and elevations – from near sea level to over 11,000 feet. Stalkless leaves grow at the base, in a flat rosette, and often have a few teeth along the margins, and ciliate hairs. Leaf surfaces may be hairless or sparsely short hairy.

Common names: Rock jasmine, pygmyflower
Family: Primrose (Primulaceae)
Scientific name: Androsace septentrionalis
Main flower color: White
Range: The Rocky Mountain states, westwards to the Great Basin, and small areas of neighboring states
Height: Between 1 and 8 inches
Habitat: Grassland, forest, tundra; generally open areas, from sea level to 11,500 feet
Leaves: Basal, oblanceolate, up to 1.2 inches long and 0.4 inches across; entire or coarsely toothed edges
Season: March to September

Look at the range and habitat and ask yourself if this plant is adaptive, as well as the fact this species is the most common out of six in the genus.

And in Minnesota (here), on the eastern edge of the range, it is rare compared to the Western Rock Jasmine (Androsace occidentalis).

If American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is noted as Minnesota’s largest native wildflower, Western Rock Jasmine  certainly vies for its smallest. It can have very dense populations but it takes a discerning and determined eye to pick it out of the landscape, and is only of interest to those who celebrate the diversity of nature. It is easily distinguished from its rare cousin, Northern Androsace (Androsace septentrionalis) which is larger in stature and has rather narrower bracts at the base of the flower cluster.

The preferred habitat features sun; dry sandy soil, grassy meadows, open fields, disturbed soil, which along with “rock” in the name suggests that these plants tolerate arid conditions.

Summary

Far from going extinct, these flowers abound and like humans adapt readily to their surroundings. As has been stated previously, when alarmists project large numbers of extinctions due to future climate change, always ask for the names and the dead bodies.  What the headlines claim is refuted by the facts on the ground.

 

2 comments

  1. hunter · February 27, 2018

    Great catch. “localized extinction” is a very slippery, if not deceptive, term.

    Like

    • Ron Clutz · February 27, 2018

      hunter, we’re seeing more of these studies treating a patch of plants like crash-test dummies. Researchers heat them up, dry them out, withhold nutrients, and watch them die. Then it is blamed on climate change.

      Like

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