Is Climate Change Leading to Lackluster Fall Foliage?

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Starting in mid-September, America’s northern climes see a drastic change in their forested landscapes: brilliant yellows and flaring reds provide a scenic backdrop for the brief period between beachside summers and fireside winters. Some of these areas are nationally known for their radiant fall foliage, so much so that autumn tourism brings in nearly 40 percent of Vermont’s yearly business, according to Lisa Rathke of the Associated Press. But Abby van den Berg, a research associate for the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center, has already noticed that warm autumns have dulled the landscape in some places.

A new three-year study that will begin this month will look for a link between climate change and a muted autumn palette of the future. Biologists at the Proctor Maple Research Center are researching whether warmer temperatures affect the timing, radiance, and longevity of leaf pigmentation.

“Many variables go into triggering leaf color, but for now the research will focus on temperature. The experiment is starting with the researchers’ assumption that the brilliant colors are promoted by cold nights followed by warm, sunny days,” reports Rathke.

Preliminary experiments have already been conducted this year, but it’s far too early to see results. Regardless, I’ll admire this year’s autumnal canvas with a bit more fervor than in recent years.

(Thanks, Live Science.)

Image by Michael Scheltgen, licensed under Creative Commons.

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