Global warming to worsen crop damage from frost
March 3, 2008
Global warming could worsen frost damage in the United States according to a new study published in the journal Bioscience.
Analyzing damage from a cold snap that killed crops across Nebraska, Maryland, South Carolina, and Texas from April to 9 April 2007, Lianhong Gu and colleagues found that warming temperatures may be leaving plants less able to withstand freezes:
“Global warming could lead to more freeze and thaw fluctuations in future winters,” explained a release from American Institute of Biological Sciences. “This pattern is potentially dangerous for plants because many species must acclimate to cold over a sustained period. Acclimation enables them to better withstand freezes, but unusual warmth early in the year prevents the process. A cold spring in 1996, in contrast to the 2007 event, caused little enduring damage because it was not preceded by unusual warmth.”
The researchers say the 2007 freeze is likely to have long-term effects.
“The 2007 freeze is likely to have lasting effects on carbon balance in the region,” the American Institute of Biological Sciences said in the statement. “Plants cannot resorb nutrients from dead tissue that would normally be remobilized within the plants during autumnal senescence, so many nutrients became less available for plants in 2008. Wildlife is expected to have suffered harm from lack of food, and changes to plant architecture could have long-term implications.”
The authors expect freeze damage to worsen as temperatures continue to rise due to greenhouse gas emissions.