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Rocky mountain flowers dwindle, as climate warms

June 17, 2011 | 11:52 am

 

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New research finds that the brilliant flowers that bloom in Rocky Mountain meadows during midsummer are dwindling, and likely to fade even more as climate change warms the high country.

Wildflower season once extended summer-long in the Rockies, but the five researchers found that the number of flowers had started to drop significantly during midsummer. There are a variety of reasons, including a warmer climate.

The implications are worrisome, not just for those who enjoy the scenic splashes of color. Pollinators such as bees and other animals such as humming birds depend on a healthy flower system. Their numbers could also drop should temperatures continue to rise and flower populations fall.

"Some pollinators with short periods of activity may require only a single flower species," write the ecologists in their paper, "but pollinators active all season must have flowers available in sufficient numbers through the season."

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, appears in the July edition of the Journal of Ecology.

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-- Nicholas Riccardi

Photo: Dwarf bluebells, one of the earliest-blooming mountain wildflowers, attract queen bees seeking nectar. Credit: David Inouye

 

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