Intimate Evening at the Gardens in Vail discusses global warming June 20 | VailDaily.com

Intimate Evening at the Gardens in Vail discusses global warming June 20

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University of Maryland ecologist David Inouye has some of the most detailed understanding yet about climate change and its effects on alpine plant and animal species. He will be in Vail on June 20 for an Intimate Evening at the Gardens from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Cost is $25. Visit www.bettyfordalpinegardens.org for more information.

VAIL — Spring certainly seems to arrive earlier these days than it used to. But is it a sure sign of global warming or just natural variability?

After decades of careful research on wildflowers, University of Maryland ecologist David Inouye has some definitive — and disturbing — answers. This summer, Inouye presents an Intimate Evening at the Gardens on Tuesday, June 20, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to share his work — some of the most detailed understanding yet about climate change and its effects on alpine plant and animal species.

A limited number of tickets are still available. The cost is $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event and can be purchased by visiting the calendar on the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens' website at http://www.bettyfordalpinegardens.org.

Each growing season over the past four decades, Inouye and his team have tracked changes every other day on some 30 separate 2-meter-by-2-meter plots of land. He estimates that he and his team have recorded the health and welfare of roughly 4 million individual wildflowers — data that his team closely correlates with variables such as air temperature and snow-melt dates. It turns out that you can learn a lot by looking at the same pieces of land so closely for so long.

The careful tracking of bloom times over many years provides an important indicator of climate change. But Inouye's research also shows that bloom times are part of an intricate and often delicate natural dance that is in many cases disrupted by climate change. Inouye is an expert on pollinators like bees and butterflies, and his research has presented data that document the problem of what he calls "phenological mismatches," as plants and pollinators adapt at different rates to a changing climate.

Inouye says that while several studies in Europe suggest that some species of wildflowers and their pollinators may successfully migrate north and to higher elevations, the abrupt climate changes he has been tracking in the Rocky Mountain meadows indicate that many varieties of wildflowers may not be able to migrate successfully as fast as the climate is changing.

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Adding further to Inouye's concerns are the results of an experiment by a team of his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory. That group, led by John Harte, put electric heaters over meadows in the alpine region not far from Inouye's plots to simulate the warming temperatures expected in coming years. The research provided clear evidence that the wildflower meadows Inouye studies will probably be entirely displaced by sagebrush desert in just 50 years if current rates of warming continue unchecked.

For more information about the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, visit http://www.bettyfordalpinegardens.org.

If you go …

What: Intimate Evening at the Gardens with David Inouye.

Where: Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Vail.

When: Tuesday, June 20, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Cost: $20 in advance, $25 day of.

More information: Visit http://www.bettyfordalpinegardens.org.

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