START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
2,489,217 people care about Environment & Wildlife

Love Fall Foliage? Get Ready For Disappointing Colors This Year

Love Fall Foliage? Get Ready For Disappointing Colors This Year

Written by Kiley Kroh

First sweaters, now leaves? It’s the beginning of fall, which traditionally signifies the coming of brilliant fall colors. But as climate change drives major shifts — such as higher temperatures and severe drought — experts predict it could spell trouble for that annual burst of color.

Howie Neufeld, a professor of plant physiology at Appalachian State University, told LiveScience that “climate change could dampen fall foliage by delaying the season, bleaching out red tones and ushering in invasive species.”

As Neufeld writes on his blog, there are several factors contributing to the risk of duller fall foliage. In addition to day length, trees use temperature as one of their main cues for changing their colors in fall — if fall temperatures are cool, they speed the production of their fall color; if temperatures are warm, they delay. As climate change drives higher temperatures, it could delay the season and potentially mute the colors, especially if the disconnect between day length and temperature becomes too great for trees to keep up.

According to Neufeld, a more dramatic change could stem from a rise in invasive species due to global warming. He explains that the hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic aphid-like pest, is already devastating hemlock trees in the East. In the upper Midwest, the Asian longhorn beetle is killing hardwood trees. And in the West, climate change has fueled the explosion of the pine bark beetle, which has destroyed forests and worsened the damage caused by wildfires.

A 2012 U.S. Forest Service report found that these invasive species are changing the composition of entire forest ecosystems. Further, “climate change is exacerbating these changes by altering the amount and seasonal distribution of precipitation seasonal temperature patterns in ways that often favor the invasive species.”

Fall foliage, and trees in general, are also threatened by drought. As Climate Central explains, “drought puts enormous stress on trees, and while it’s much harder to kill a tree than it is, say, a corn or soybean field, arid conditions will make leaves turn brown and drop to the ground before they can flare into yellow or red for the tourists.”

With much of the U.S. still gripped in drought conditions, tree health and fall foliage are already changing. In Minnesota, the Lacrosse Tribune warned, “fall colors are showing up early again this year, and could be muted as a moderate drought in Houston and Winona counties continues on.”

As AccuWeather.com notes in its fall foliage forecast, “extreme drought can thwart fall colors … impacting the leaf size, vigor and physiology,” a fact that does not bode well for the western half of the U.S., “particularly along the Rocky Mountains, the primary color-producing area of the West.”

Diminished fall colors are not just an aesthetic change — they are a significant economic driver from the Midwest to New England. Last year, fall tourism brought over $1.5 billion to Maine alone, according to LiveScience. And Climate Central points out that “national statistics are hard to come by, but officials in New Hampshire estimate that leaf-peeping tourists pump up the state economy by about $1 billion each year” with the estimate being about the same for North Carolina.

While diminished fall colors are far from the most pressing impacts of global climate change, Neufeld explains they may be a sign of more severe changes to come: “Although less brilliant fall foliage displays may not rank high on the list of concerns about global change, those muted colors could be the canary in the mine shaft telling us that these shifts could be markers for more subtle, and potentially more consequential changes in our world.”

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Read more: , , , , ,

Photo credit: Thinkstock

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

57 comments

+ add your own
8:10AM PDT on May 27, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

1:06AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

TY

2:18PM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

Thank you ThinkProgress, for Sharing this!

6:14PM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

:(

7:48AM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

If this was only the worst of it.....

6:47PM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

ty

5:55PM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

It will be interesting to see.

4:44PM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

The extreme wet (for a "bad" change) in Colorado will undoubtedly affect the fall foliage. The aspens, I'm sure, will not be their usual glorious selves; the wet suppresses their colors.

3:36PM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

And it is just beginning....

1:24PM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

Just another "gift" from climate change!

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

What we see in others is a reflection of our hidden guilt that needs forgiveness and when we have completed…

I believe that the homeless are harassed for many reasons, not just pot smoking. STEVE N. It is surprising…

meet our writers

Colleen H. Colleen H. is an Online Campaigner with Care2 and a recent transplant to San Francisco from the East... more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free

more from causes

Animal Welfare

Causes Canada

Causes UK

Children

Civil Rights

Education

Endangered Wildlife

Environment & Wildlife

Global Development

Global Warming

Health Policy

Human Rights

LGBT rights

Politics

Real Food

Trailblazers For Good

Women's Rights




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.