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New study shows plants struggle to keep pace with climate change in human-dominated landscapes


Researchers found that changes in plant phenology are lagging behind rising temperatures across a majority of the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the most human-dominated landscapes, like crop lands. Researchers at UC Santa Cruz are contributing new insights into the challenges plants face in adapting to climate change. Prior research has long anticipated that plants might be able to respond to increasing temperatures by changing their phenology—or the timing of seasonal life processes—at a rate that matches the rate of climate change. But a new global-scale analysis, published in the journal AGU Advances , shows that phenological changes are lagging temperature change, and this trend seems to be more pronounced in human-dominated landscapes.

“We would commonly expect phenology to adapt very quickly to climate change, but with these findings, we see that there’s probably a limit to how much adaptation we can see, and this limit is affected by human activities,” said Yiluan Song, a UCSC Ph.D. student in environmental studies and lead author of the paper. “These findings open up a lot of questions to explore in terms of our expected response of plants to climate change.”

To arrive at their findings, the research team—under the guidance of UCSC Associate Professor […]

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