In Local Preserves and Your Backyard. What You Can Do to Lessen the Damage
By Dr. Constance M. Vadheim, Emeritus Professor of Biology, CSUDH
At our April quarterly meeting, Dr. Vadheim spoke on how climate change is starting to affect us here in the South Bay and its likely progression. Click here for the compete illustrated lecture. For a brief summary,
The effects of climate change can already be seen in our area. Who could miss the recent five-year drought and heat waves? But some the more important impacts can be subtle. Here are a few you might not have thought about.
- Warmer winter temperatures will likely affect the productivity of plants needing winter chill. Some plants – including some of our native fruiting plants – need a certain number of hours below a certain temperature. Warm places like Southern California required “low chill” varieties, even before climate change. The effects of decreased winter chill are already being seen in California agricultural cropslike almonds. Local backyard fruit and berry productivity will likely become more sporadic in the future.
- More erratic precipitation will likely change the types of plants growing in preserves and even gardens. Many native and non-native plants will be affected by either the more severe droughts or the occasional flooding. Our wild lands will likely look very different in the future, as species unable to cope die out. Limited irrigation water already requires careful plant choices – and irrigation priorities – for local gardens.
- More hot, sunny days – even in winter – make shade critically important. Planting drought-tolerant trees and shrubs should be a priority for cities and for individual homeowners. Trees are the best way to decrease urban temperatures; they also provide food, habitat and beauty.
- Changes in the timing of seasons may be one of the most important effects. In Mediterranean climates (like ours), seed germination, growth, flowering and dormancy are all tied to seasonal patterns of temperature and precipitation. Rapid changes can be catastrophic, affecting plants, insect pollinators and all creatures reliant on plants. Insects are particularly susceptible to changes in temperature and precipitation. Changes in seasonality can cause a mismatch between plants, pollinators and the factors necessary for seed development and dispersal. Reproduction is already being affected for some plants, including native and agricultural species like fruit trees and native sunflower species relying on specialist pollinators. Changes in seasonality are not just annoying – they are reason for us all to worry.