Not all plants perish as winter approaches. Some plants in the north can survive – and even grow – in the freezing arctic temperatures.
Arctic plants, however, are delicate and rely on certain temperature cues for flowering. Furthermore, as climate change worsens, rising temperatures could upset this delicate equilibrium, endangering the survival of species in this special ecosystem.
When Arctic plants bloom, specifically in Canada’s Nunavut, was the subject of a study by Zoe Panchen. Wintertime lows can reach -31 degrees Celsius, or almost -24 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the area has warmed by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the last 100 years. Additionally, according to recent studies, the Arctic is warming four times as quickly as the rest of the world, which could have disastrous implications both within the Arctic and elsewhere.
Warming temperatures may cause plants to change when they flower, according to earlier study. Panchen looked at the temperature-sensitivity, or the number of days per degree Celsius that flowering time may change, to confirm this and determine how serious it might be. They anticipated that plants’ flowering times would advance as temperatures rose.
In order to determine the flowering seasons of the 50 most prevalent local flowers, Panchen looked at two field sites and consulted herbarium guides.
Panchen recorded the beginning of flowering, peak flowering, quantity of flowers, and length of flowering at each location. Panchen discovered that plants had adapted to a colder, shorter growth season at the more northern site. In contrast to location or elevation, each site’s particular microclimate (local climatic conditions) seemed to have a greater impact on plant blossoming.
The timing of blossoming shifted depending on the species. For instance, whereas the purple saxifrage has not advanced substantially in flowering time, the midsummer flowering mountain avens has. Panchen came to the conclusion that the mountain avens flower is more susceptible to temperature changes than the saxifrage as a result of this.
In the herbarium study, 23 common species were investigated by Panchen to track their seasonal flowering. Again, she discovered a wide variety of flowering dates, but she also discovered that some species, such as those native to Arctic islands or archipelagos, were far more susceptible to temperature than those located on the mainland or further south. Small temperature changes can have a significant impact on the survival of these Arctic plants since they are so well suited to their environment.
These results also imply that the environment can experience cascading consequences. Panchen issues the following warning: “Arctic ecological community competitiveness, pollinator interactions, and ultimately Arctic ecological community composition could be altered as a result of interspecific variance in responsiveness to climate change.”