Field of Science

Moving north at biological speed.

One of the important reasons to keep collections of organisms is that they document prior locations. Even as spotty as these records are, if you record enough of them a signal can emerge from the noise, and the signal if simple, species are moving north at the rate of 6.1 km per decade, or if you grow on a mountain, then you're moving up in altitude. Winter is getting shorter and spring coming earlier by 2.3 days per decade. What if a plant flowering earlier fails to coordinate things with a pollinator because of differences in how they react to environmental cues. And what if a heat sensitive woodland plant runs into a barrier, like a hundred miles of mostly agricultural fields, that prevents it's northward trek? Or if your particular mountain just isn't tall enough? Adios, amigos. Another species extinction. Conservation has long argued for preserving corridors and this is why. Of course, that won't help alpine species that just run out of room. Colleagues in Costa Rica have set up study sites in cloud forests on their tallest mountains for the rather depressing reason of recording their demise.

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