Climate change and native plant restoration
This winter has been the perfect testament to the climate change our state (and the whole planet) is experiencing. In February maples and willows bloomed— over a month early for many places! One of the burning questions on every plant conservationist’s mind is how our native plants will weather this new weather. What will happen as our summers get wetter and hotter, and our winters subject to more extreme temperature fluctuations? Some scientists theorize southern populations of natives will gradually migrate further north, following favorable climate patterns. Others believe this will spell big trouble for plant diversity— on both a micro and macro scale: rapid changes in climate may not give plants enough time to adjust, diminishing not only the kinds of species capable of occupying any one habitat, but the genetic diversity of those species too. One thing is mostly agreed upon however—local populations of native plants have the best shot at making it through these changes and adapting to a potentially very different meterological reality. A new program in the east coast called ‘Seeds of Success’ seeks to provide land managers working to restore landscapes affected by climate change weather (think Hurricane Sandy and its demolishment of the sand dunes around New York City) with this kind of plant material in order to give these ecosystems the best chance at resiliency and facing off against new— and often damaging— weather patterns. Although Seeds of Success has been active in the western states for many years, it’s only recently that the program has begun work in the East. Working through the North Carolina Botanic Garden, the Mid Atlantic Regional Seed Bank, and the New England Wildflower Society the program sources seed from wild populations of native plants most critical to coastal restoration projects (like Solidago sempervirens, Spartina patens, and Distichilis spicata) and distributes them in bulk to end users like Fish and Wildlife, or state Departments of Environmental Protection/Conservation. Coastal landscapes from Chesapeake Bay to Long Island to the Boston Harbor Islands will benefit from this effort, hopefully making them better equipped to adjust to changes in the long run.