Plants are leafing out and flowering sooner each year than predicted by results from controlled environmental warming experiments, according to data from a major new archive of historical observations assembled with the help of a NASA researcher.
Researchers use experiments that manipulate the temperature of the environment surrounding small plots of plants to gauge how specific plants will react to higher temperatures. The observed plant responses can then be incorporated into models that predict future ecosystem changes as temperatures around the globe continue to rise. But when a group of scientists compared these results to a massive new archive of historical observations, they found that the warming experiments are dramatically underestimating how plants respond to climate change.
The results were published online in the journal Nature on May 2. In addition to quantifying how a broad collection of plant species have responded to date to rising temperatures, the study suggests that the way warming experiments are conducted needs to be re-evaluated.