How species will, or won’t, manage in a warming world

Climate change simulations may predict which animals and plants can adapt and how scientists can help

2:00pm, July 11, 2014

QUICK CHANGE ARTISTS  Some animals are managing to respond to climate change. In Finland, the ratio of gray and reddish-brown tawny owls, like these two rescued in the Czech Republic, has changed as winters have warmed. 

High in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, mustard plants slumber through the winter in snow-covered meadows. When spring finally reveals these hardy perennials, the plants reach for the sky, unveiling tiny pink or white flowers.

This annual rebirth is timed to the snowmelt, and as warmer temperatures have moved melting earlier and earlier in the year, this particular mustard, known as Drummond’s rock cress (Boechera stricta), has followed. The herb’s trumpetlike flowers now bloom about 13 days earlier than they did four decades ago. For a plant that flowers for at most 30 days a year, says University of South Carolina plant ecologist Jill Anderson, “that’s an enormous change.”

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