Warming Planet Changing Thoreau's Woods

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Author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau died in 1862,
around the era when the industrial revolution was beginning to spew global
warming pollution into the atmosphere.

Between 1852 and 1858, Thoreau meticulously recorded details
about the flora that bloomed in the Concord, Massachusetts woods. Researchers
recently repeated Thoreau’s measurements and compared the findings, revealing
that global warming has had a degrading effect on the Walden
Pond area.

Richard Primack and graduate student Abraham Miller-Rushing
of Boston University surveyed the plants in the Concord woods from 2003 to 2007, Discovery
News reports.

The researchers recorded the abundance of various species
and about which day they flowered each season. They combined these results with
data collected by Thoreau and another naturalist in the 19th century.

The researchers found that 27 percent of the species in
Thoreau’s surveys have disappeared from the area, and another 36 percent are
now so rare they may be gone soon. Over the last 100 years, the average annual
temperature in the Walden Pond area has risen
by 4.3 degrees.

“Plants in Concord aren’t really responding
to climate change in the same way,” Charles Davis and colleagues at Harvard University told Discovery News. “Some
are able to adjust their flowering time by upwards of three weeks, and others
are not.”

“For the first time, it shows that climate change is not
impacting these plants in a uniform or random way,” Davis added.

“I think we could go back to Walden and learn about how we
could live better lives,” said Thoreau scholar Phil Cafaro of Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Published: November 6, 2008