Despite global warming accelerating since the 1970s, when early spider orchids in the UK flower still varies with temperature in exactly the same way that it has for the past 150 years. By studying preserved plant specimens known as herbaria, researchers from the Universities of East Anglia, Sussex and Kent have found that orchids consistently flower 6 days earlier for every 1ºC rise in average spring temperature. Measurements of how species react to climate changes are rare, and so this first clear demonstration that herbaria can fill these gaps creates a powerful new scientific weapon.
“It is estimated that some 2.5 billion specimens of flora and fauna are held in biological collections worldwide,” the University of East Anglia (UEA)’s Anthony Davy and colleagues wrote in the Journal of Ecology this week. “With appropriate validation, the exploitation of this resource will have increasing relevance and value as we seek to understand and predict the consequences of continuing climate change.” Read the rest of this entry »