Climate Change Shifting US Plant Zones, Will Shift Pacific Ecosystems Hundreds of Miles

Anna Fox/CC BY 2.0

Two things in particular caught my eye today showing how climate change is already having a very tangible impact in the US and how it likely will have a potentially very serious impact on Pacific ecosystems.

Let's start with what's happening right now:

USDA/Public Domain

Researchers from the City College of New York say that global warming has already made old USDA plant zone maps—used as a guideline as to what plants can grow where—already doesn't represent the new climate across the nation.

The last time the USDA updated the map was in 1990, but the latest version, just updated, shows that over one-third of the US has shifted half a zone in the past 20 years and 20% has shifted a full zone.

However, what CCNY assistant professor Nir Krakauer says is lacking in the new USDA map is some detail on how the US is warming, in that winters have warmed more than summers, with each zone averaging 2°F warmer than the 30-year average used by the USDA in developing the map—and that this trend is greater in the interior of the eastern part of the nation, and less so in the southwest.

Moving on to what is likely to happen if warming continues as it has been (meaning, we don't reign in our greenhouse gas emissions):

Matt Kiefer/CC BY-SA 2.0

A new study in Nature Climate Change shows that some habitats in the North Pacific could move in the next century over 600 miles from where they are now located, due to warming ocean waters.

While some habitat locations may remain largely as they are currently, critical ones for loggerhead turtles, some sharks, and blue whales may be particularly badly affected, with strong negative impact on biodiversity.

One of these key habitat areas, known as the North Pacific Transition Zone, marks the interface between cold, nutrient-rich polar water to the north and warmer, nutrient-poor water to the south. This region is used by a variety of ocean predators, including marine mammals, tunas and seabirds, as a corridor across the Pacific Ocean basin. The study suggests that this critical region could shift by as much as 600 miles, resulting in a 20 percent loss of species diversity in the region. (Science Daily)

Tags: Gardening | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects | Oceans

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