Thursday, May 17, 2012

Linking NYS agriculture and Climate Change: We’re still not there yet.


This report from the STATE OF NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND MARKETS on Department Testimony to Assembly Environmental Committee on Invasive Species is interesting because it hints that maybe humans are responsible for the invasive species problem in New York and perhaps even Climate Change.

“We live in a dynamic and changing world. Since the receding of the Ice Age glaciers, the natural environment of North America and New York has evolved and changed. Some of that change has been natural while other aspects are human‐sponsored. Regardless of the source, introductions of species from their original environs to areas where they are no longer considered native have been taking place for centuries.”

Well, maybe the Climate Change link is a leap. “Regardless of the source” is really vague and non-committal. That’s too bad because according to most predictions about invasive species in New York State Climate Change will exacerbate this issue. Invasive species are going to eat up a lot of our NYS food crops because many of these species that invade New York State’s environment will thrive in a warmer climate and out-compete endemic species.

There is some recent evidence regarding the impacts of climate change on invasive species. Predictions that the hemlock wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), an invasive insect whose range is largely constrained by overwintering temperatures, would spread more rapidly throughout the Northeast with a warming climate (Paradis et al., 2008) have already come to pass in New York’s Finger Lakes Region (USDA Forest Service, 2008). Recent work examining the flowering time of native and non-native species over 150 years in Concord, Massachusetts, indicates that non-native plants—particularly invasive species—have adapted better to long-term temperature increases than native plants. Over the last 100 years, invasive plants, on average, are flowering 11 days earlier than native plants. This may confer greater advantage to the invasive species (Willis et al., 2010). (Page 186, Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID)

What’s critical for solving the invasive species problem is educating the public about this Likely Changes coming to our region because of Climate Change. Until then, reports like the ones above remain hidden by a screen of doubt because of government officials are not connecting the dots between predictions of the many environmental issues like invasive species and Climate Change. It’s about education education, education.

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