Forestry | Climate change | Ecotrope

Welcome to fall! Now, how climate is changing it...

Ecotrope | Sept. 26, 2011 2:27 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:35 p.m.

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View of the Shenandoah Valley from a USGS camera placed on Stony Man Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park to record forest leaf color and condition through time.

View of the Shenandoah Valley from a USGS camera placed on Stony Man Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park to record forest leaf color and condition through time.

Don’t you love reading your work e-mail on Monday morning? After a cold, dark and wet bike ride to work this morning, I sat down at my desk and saw … that it’s time to talk about how climate change could impact autumn.

How will climate change affect the way we see fall colors? USGS scientists are capturing photographs of the trees over research weather stations throughout Shenandoah National Park. This is part of an effort to study how forest phenology may be impacted by climate change.

How will climate change affect the way we see fall colors? USGS scientists are capturing photographs of the trees over research weather stations throughout Shenandoah National Park. This is part of an effort to study how forest phenology may be impacted by climate change.

The U.S. Geological Survey is looking for ways to measure how fall leaves – and leaf fall – are changing with the climate (like the camera shots above and to the left).

As the climate changes, it affects the timing of when leaves emerge and when they begin to fall. And drier conditions could mean leaves start dropping before they change color.

Welcome to fall. Now, let’s talk about how we could lose the best part of the season: Changing leaves.

OPB’s Anna King did a story about this last year:

“The fading daylight and the crisp air signals to trees that it’s time to get ready for winter.

Now is when trees are working to recoil nutrients from leaves into their more cold-protected twigs, branches and trunk. They’ll need that energy to survive the winter and to make new leaves in the spring.

Kate Lajtha is a professor specializing in plants and global warming at Oregon State University.

Research shows climate change could make droughts more likely. And she says it could mess up the special balance between daylight, temperature and trees.

Kate Lajtha: ‘What you might see is rather than see deciduous trees turn beautiful reds in the fall and then dropping leaves, you might see increased dropping of green leaves in the summer.’”

The USGS is using satellite technology, web cams and citizen science to monitor changes in when the leaves change color and when they fall. The agency works with the National Phenology Network, which collects observations from people across the country about when plants emerge in the spring, and when the leaves begin to fall in autumn. And how the timing is changing…

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