Windsurfers, blooms, and flowers are coming back to the shore, and some species are showing signs of life again after decades of decline, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and the University at Buffalo, examined the abundance of more than 1,200 flowering plants and plants and shrubs across the United States.
“The most prominent bloom-producing plants are now abundant again,” said lead author Dr. John Sperling, a postdoctoral fellow at the University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the National Park Service’s Bureau of Land Management.
Sperling’s research was based on data collected from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which tracks plant species, and NOAA, which collects data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The team analyzed data from 17 different years of data from NOAA’s National Flower Inventory, which was developed to monitor plant growth and species diversity in the Great Lakes region.
“We found that we could find new plants and flowering plants with higher abundances and densities than we would have predicted,” said Sper, the study’s first author.
“There were lots of interesting things going on.”
The study found that, while there are now more flowering plants than ever before, many are dying out.
Some, like the black-eyedbell, are thriving.
Others, like cacti, are dying at an alarming rate.
And many of the plants that are thriving now are not showing signs that they will thrive again in the future, the authors noted.
For instance, in the first year of the study, plants with low levels of nitrogen were still showing higher than average abundance.
In 2016, that number dropped to a low of just 0.4 percent.
That trend continued in the second year of data collection.
But in the third year of analysis, the level of nitrogen in the plants was higher than it was the year before.
That means more than one out of every three plants were losing nitrogen at that point.
The authors also found that plant species that had previously been highly abundant were declining, with species like the cactaceae, spruce and ash, and pine and cypress species all showing decreases in abundance and density.
“These are all plants that were highly abundant in the past, and they’re showing that they’re going to disappear,” said co-author Dr. Jennifer E. Crouch, an assistant professor of plant science and evolutionary biology at UMass.
The report suggests that plants are changing at an ever-increasing rate.
In 2020, there were more than 2.5 million flowering plants in the United Kingdom, compared to just under 900,000 plants in 1950.
“It’s very hard to predict what’s going to happen in the next decade,” Crouch said.
“What we do know is that it’s probably going to be much more difficult for the species that are going to grow and reproduce than for plants that we’ve been growing for the past few decades,” Crouchy added.
“If we want to continue to grow our forests, we need to do everything we can to keep our forests healthy and vibrant.”
The new research comes just months after the Great Barrier Reef was officially declared a World Heritage Site.
Sparks are also flying off the reef as the researchers looked for signs of recovery, like a return to a higher abundance of cactuses.
The researchers say their results suggest the reef is likely to return to the normal levels of diversity that existed in the 1980s, before climate change took a major toll on the species.
The new findings also could help the U,S.
Congress to reevaluate the impact of carbon pollution on the oceans and the natural world.
“Many plants and animals are in decline due to CO2 pollution and this is one of those species,” said Crouch.
“This research suggests that, if the species we love are going extinct, we may have to rethink the future of the species, so that we’re able to survive and thrive in a warmer climate.”###This study was supported by the UMass Department of Forestry, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the UF Center for Environmental Research and Policy.