The potential for assisted migration of Alberta’s native plants

“It’s the Goldilocks principle. All species, including plants, animals and fungi, are uniquely adapted to a specific combination of climate and environmental conditions that they need to grow, reproduce and thrive – things need to be “just right.  If the environment changes, species have two choices: they can either stay where they are and adapt to the new conditions, or they can move to more suitable places.

“Plants, being rooted to the earth, have a limited ability to respond to environmental change. It can take a long time to adapt to new conditions, so it’s difficult for plants to respond quickly to relatively rapid changes that happen around them, like those projected in some climate models. Plants can’t pick up and move either; they can only send forth their seeds in hopes of finding the Goldilocks conditions perfect for growth and reproduction. For many plant species, this dispersal will likely not happen far enough or fast enough to keep pace with projected changes in climate, which means they are at risk of being left behind. This is especially true in today’s increasingly fragmented landscapes” (Source: www.natureconservancy.ca).

GR:  I think we need a national commitment to learn how to help plants migrate to new locations. Both the value and the variability of microclimate, soil, topography, and biological interaction are limiting factors for plants. Along a route over a mountain or across a valley, the abundance of each species will change along with the changing factors. Repeat the measurements next year and there will be differences. Storms, invasive species, human activity, and even evolution can alter conditions. We will need an army of observers at work for years to succeed. If we were wiser, we would be studying nature instead of fighting wars and bailing out big banks.  We must applaud Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute’s efforts. Perhaps they can save a few species.

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