Earlier spring disrupts plant-pollinators

2013-11-04 14:10
Climate change already affects species around the world by changing flowering and breeding seasons. (Photo: John Tinkler, ApertureWild))

Climate change already affects species around the world by changing flowering and breeding seasons. (Photo: John Tinkler, ApertureWild))

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Cape Town – Spring is starting earlier for animals and plants due to the impact of climate change, a recent study has found.

The study published in Plos one focussed on the Southern hemisphere and highlighted the importance of climate change and its potential to disrupt food webs, including pollinator-plant relationships.

Dr Phoebe Barnard, climate change researcher at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, says the whole system could fall apart if flowering and bird migration occur at varying times.

“Flowering could be earlier, later, or drawn out and any one of these scenarios could disturb the life cycle of another species that is dependent on it,” she told News24.

Barnard referred to a 2012 study which found that migratory barn swallows leave the northern parts of South Africa for their European breeding destination 8 days earlier than 20 years ago.

“This study shows a clear response of an animal species to changes in climate from a temporal point of view and this has a lot of significance for conservation,” she said.

According to Barnard the most far-reaching implications would be for animal breeding.

“In fynbos the orange-breasted sunbirds and Cape sugar birds time their breeding to the flowering of a number of different proteas and ericas and if the timing changes we can expect to see a higher rate of nest failure.”

Barnard says that it is not yet well documented but that a research team is currently working on the phenomena.

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Read more on:    south africa  |  climate change  |  environment

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