The number of California’s native wildflowers have begun to decrease rapidly. Researchers are using results from collected data of wildflower studies to help determine the damage climate control can cause to plant life, in other areas around the world. According to sources, California wildflowers suffering from dehydration has a bigger impact than one might believe, since it is slowly beginning to take effect on the food chain.
Wildflowers are native Californian species, and for decades they have been treated as non-natives. Their natural habitats have been invaded by development and agriculture throughout the state, and the current drought has imposed an even bigger threat to the species. As their habitat changes, it forces the environment to be attacked and vulnerable to species that are invasive. Although the extinction of the wildflowers seems minimal, if they become extinct their contribution to the food chain will endanger pollinators and insects that which food sources for small animals. Losing a small species can lead to a bigger problem in the future.
For 15 years, researchers have conducted a study which paid attention to the life span of plants and wildflowers grown in the Golden state. They found that in the months of December and February the weather has been very hot and dry, and researchers stated, “the weather is causing soil on the upper layer to dry out, making it hard for the growth of wildflowers to occur.” California wildflowers suffering from dehydration is showing scientists the beginning signs of lost plant species.
Professor of environmental policy and science at University of Davis, Susan Harrison, and leading author of a study published in the Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Science journal, Monday, June 22, said, “the Golden state has the most plant diversity in the world, and 15 years ago there were beautiful years of blossoming wildflower, and those years are not as beautiful or frequent anymore.” Harrison continued, “in the beginning it seemed as though the land was becoming more grassy, but it was not until the realization took place that the land was just less flowery.”
Researchers studied the drying out of the wildflowers 80 miles north of San Francisco, California, close to the McLaughlin Natural Reserve, for 15 years. During the study the number of each plant species that they studied has been reduced, and the species that received the most dramatic decline was the wildflower, which is not able to endure the drought.
Harrison explained that having hot and dry weather in the winter affects the wildflowers when they are still small seedlings. She observed two types of seeds those that are asleep, and those that are sprouting. She noticed that the seeds which are dormant will sprout and blossom when it rains, but those that are sprouting eventually die off when there is a lack of water. She found that, either way, with the drought persisting as it is there is no hope for the species unless there is a shift in the climate.
After Harrison’s observation, she began to make predictions on how things will turn out with the wildflowers being dehydrated and what will happen to the other native Californian plants. She noted diversity is the key essential of California’s plants, and without diversity the plant population will be a cultivation of one group in one area.
According to California Native Plant society executive director Dan Gluesenkamp, “UC Davis’s research is important, but it is also inconclusive because the Golden state has a wide ecosystem range, and within each ecosystem the wildflowers show a different behavior.”
He also stated that the scientists needed to understand, “their 15 year time span of collecting data for a grassland in California needed to be done a little bit longer because viability is normal for the state.” The organization that Glusenkamp worked for told sources, “to protect native plants of California, the species that is endangered must be identified, and placed in a park or trust, where habitat has been saved for them.”
In defense, Harrison stated, “the research she gathered was over a spectrum of native California plants and the dominating grasslands of California that once existed are becoming more scarce.” Wildflowers of California suffering from dehydration study indicates the drought is beginning to take its toll on the grasslands.
By Krystle Mitchell
Edited by Chanel van der Woodsen
Time: California Wildflowers Suffering from Drought
Sacbee: UC Davis Study finds dry weather threatening wildflowers
Kqed: Climate Change Threatens Wildflowers
Photo Courtesy of Saintrain’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License