Recent leaf-peeping seasons have been disrupted by weather conditions in New England, New York and elsewhere
For a joyous autumn activity, leaf peeping is facing some serious threats from the era of climate change.
Leaf peeping, the practice of traveling to see nature display its fall colors, is a beloved annual activity in many corners of the country, particularly in New England and New York. But recent weather has been disrupted by weather conditions there and elsewhere, and that trend is likely to continue as the planet warms, arborists, conservationists and ecologists said.
Leaves cascade into warmer colors across the US, usually by the end of September. This year, many regions haven’t pivoted from their summer greens yet. In northern Maine, where extreme conditions typically occur in late September, forest rangers reported less than 70% of color change and moderate leaf drop on Wednesday.
Across the country in Denver, higher temperatures have left “dead, dry edges of leaves” early in the season, said Michael Sundberg, a certified arborist in the region.
“Instead of trees doing this gradual change, they throw off these wacky weather events. They change abruptly, or they drop leaves early,” Sundberg said. “It’s been a few years since we had It’s been a really nice leaf year where you just drive around town and see really nice colors.”
The reason climate change may be worsened by autumn has something to do with plant biology. When autumn arrives, and day length and temperature drop, the chlorophyll in a leaf is broken down, and this causes it to lose its green color. Green gives way to yellows, reds and oranges that make for dramatic autumn displays.
Worse, dry summers can stress trees and cause their leaves to miss fall color altogether, Schaberg said. A 2003 study in the journal Tree Physiology noted that “environmental stresses may accelerate” leaf decline, said Schaberg Cowrote.
“If climate change means significant drought, it means trees are going to shut down, and many trees are just about to drop their leaves,” he said. “Severe drought which really means the tree can’t function – it doesn’t improve color.”
This is already happening. This summer’s heat in the Pacific Northwest brought temperatures over 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) in Oregon, and it caused a condition called “foliage scorch,” in which the leaves turn brown prematurely, says Chris Stills, an associate professor at Forest Ecosystems. The professor said. Society Department at Oregon State University.
The pigment of the leaves had deteriorated and they fell off shortly thereafter, however. This will lead to a less beautiful fall season in parts of Oregon.
“It’s just a really great example of a color change due to heatwave shock,” Still said.
Climate change also poses long-term threats that can disrupt leaf peeping. Andrew Richardson, professor of ecosystem science at Northern Arizona University, said the spread of diseases and invasive pests and the northward creep of tree species are all factors tied to warmer temperatures that can create less vibrant fall colors.
Yankee magazine foliage expert Jim Salge said the onset of fall colors, which shed later in the fall, may continue into the latter.
“The last decade has been more years in my observations than what we would later consider historical averages,” he said.
The economic impact of bad leaf-peeping seasons can also be consequential. Officials across New England have said that fall tourism brings in billions of dollars to those states each year.
Conservationists say this is a good reason to focus on conserving forests and reducing burning fossil fuels. Andy Finton, landscape conservation director and forest ecologist at The Nature Conservancy, said recent fall seasons in Massachusetts have been less spectacular than usual, but if forests are given the protection they need, leaf peeping could be a part of the state’s heritage. may be a part.
“If we can keep large, important forests intact, they will provide us with what we depend on – clean air, clean water, clean forests, as well as the motivation to fall,” Finton said.