In addition to being a great role model for young stoners everywhere, Henry David Thoreau also has provided science with an interesting tid-bit in environmental science.
Many studies have looked at how global warming may cause shifts in where plants grow, but very few have examined how specific traits, such as flowering time, are affected. The necessary long-term records rarely exist. But for 6 years, Thoreau tracked the life histories of more than 400 plant species in a 67-square-kilometer area. Another researcher covered the same ground at Walden Pond and its surrounds circa 1900. Then from 2004 to 2007, Boston University (BU) conservation biologist Richard Primack and his student Abraham Miller-Rushing regularly visited the area to make similar observations of about 350 species and to check how the abundances of these plants had changed through time.
Their data, published in February in Ecology, revealed that many flowers were blossoming a week earlier than in Thoreau’s time. They noted also that about half of the species studied had decreased in number, with 20% having disappeared entirely.
Who knew? It’s amazing how little of Thoreau’s contributions to science are discussed. Let’s face it, spending six years gathering information on 400 different plant species is not exactly easy! He has a reputation in the general public as a bit of a loper. Clearly that’s wrong. Thanks Henry!