How warming winters are affecting everything

Graphic of melting North America with different plants and animals.

(Michigan Radio) Winters are warming faster than other seasons across much of the United States. While that may sound like a welcome change for those bundled in scarves and hats, it’s causing a cascade of unpredictable impacts in communities across the country – impacting pollinators and the plants they’re connected with. Temperatures continue to steadily rise around the globe, but that trend isn’t spread evenly across the map or even the yearly calendar.

Bumble bee declines points to mass extinction

Image of bumble bee on orange flower.

(The Guardian) A study suggests the likelihood of a bumble bee population surviving in any given place has declined by 30 percent in the course of a single human generation. The researchers say the rates of decline appear to be “consistent with a mass extinction”. The team used data collected over a 115-year period on 66 bumble bee species across North America and Europe to develop a model simulating “climate chaos” scenarios. They were able to see how bumble bee populations had changed over the years by comparing where the insects were now to where they used to be.

Want to know what climate change will do in your back yard? There’s a data set for that

Image of person working in field.

(EurekAlert/CIAT) What the global climate emergency has in store may vary from one back yard to the next, particularly in the tropics where microclimates, geography and land-use practices shift dramatically over small areas. A data set created by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture is filling this niche. While it has primarily served agricultural research, the data has also been used to map the potential global spread of Zika (a mosquito-borne disease), to plan investment strategies for international development, and to predict the ongoing decline of outdoor skating days in Canada due to warmer winters.

Urbanization delays spring plant growth in warm regions

Image of flowering tree by lake in park.

(Florida Museum) The first appearance of bright green leaves heralds the start of spring, nudging insects, birds and other animals into a whirlwind of action. But a new study shows that urbanization shifts this seasonal cue in nuanced ways, with cities in cold climates triggering earlier spring plant growth and cities in warm climates delaying it. The study also found that the urban heat island effect is not the only culprit behind the shift, suggesting that other aspects of urbanization, such as pollution, changes in humidity and fertilizer runoff, may also influence plants’ seasonal patterns.

Decade-long drought in Chile wipes out hives as bees are left without flowers

Image of honey bees at bee feeder.

(Reuters) “There’s no water anywhere. The bees are suffering just the same as cattle, crops and people.” Concern over the impact of changing environments on bees has reached the highest levels of government in Chile. The country has already unleashed millions in aid for drought-stricken farmers. In August, it said it would include a line item in future agency budgets to account for the ‘costs’ of climate change.

Climate change could pit species against one another as they shift ranges

Image of wildflowers with mountain in background.

(University of British Columbia) Species have few good options when it comes to surviving climate change; they can genetically adapt to new conditions, shift their ranges, or both. But new research indicates that conflicts between species as they adapt and shift ranges could lead experts to underestimate extinctions, and underscores the importance of landscape connectivity. “The good news is this conflict between moving and adapting is reduced when movement rates are high, which emphasizes the importance of maintaining well-connected landscapes.”

New research provides important insights into how different species might survive extreme climate events

Image of blazing sun over city.

(Washington University in St. Louis) Faced with unprecedented change in their environments, animals and plants are scrambling to catch up — with mixed results. Researchers have developed a new model that helps to predict the types of changes that could drive a given species to extinction. This model could give wildlife managers and conservation organizations insight into the potential vulnerabilities of different species based on relatively simple assessments of their natural histories and historical environments.