What can Henry David Thoreau Teach Us About Climate Change?
by Katherine Gianni and Molly Gluck, Boston University
April 8, 2021
As a leading naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau could teach courses across a variety of disciplines, but it’s his observations on fruiting that has guided Boston University Professor of Biology Richard Primack and his colleagues’ latest research. In a new article in Annals of Botany, the BU plant ecologists demonstrate that there is a strong sequence of fruiting in New England plants, with species such as blueberries fruiting in mid-summer and hollies fruiting much later in autumn. The findings help inform research on the biological effects of climate change across local environments. “Our lab group has been working with Thoreau’s observations for 19 years now, and Thoreau still has more to contribute to climate change research” says Primack, co-author of the study.
Most recently, Primack’s team published a total of 13,441 phenological records in Ecology, spanning 118 years, with observations of many species including flowering plants, ferns, gymnosperms, and birds. Their latest research release also provides relative abundance data for an additional 200 plant species. The team hopes that scientists will use the dataset to better understand how plants and animals have altered their spring activity since the time of Thoreau.
Read the Ecology paper: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ecy.3646