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Growing Evidence on Climate Change Affecting U.S. Gardens

Debra Roby

Federal climate scientists are teaming up with horticulturalists to inform the public about the potential effects of climate change on gardens. Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a new partnership aimed at that goal with the American Public Gardens Association (APGA). The partnership has launched with a pilot project at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, in the form of an exhibit featuring NOAA's climate data.

"There is telling evidence that climate change is affecting plant life around the world and here at Longwood," Paul Redman, the director of Longwood Gardens, said in a press release. "For example, through Longwood Gardens-sponsored research we have observed that plants are flowering earlier on average 1 day per decade over the last 150 years." Other public gardens across America are also observing earlier bloom times, in addition to changes in temperature and precipitation patterns and distribution of species.

Visitors to the exhibit can view maps showing the effects of changing temperature on climate-related planting zones and listen to recordings via their cell phones featuring NOAA climate scientist Thomas Karl and other researchers studying the impact of climate change on local plants.

The goal of the partnership between NOAA and APGA is to increase awareness about climate change through educational programs at public gardens. Each year, 70 million people visit North American public gardens, Redman told ScienceInsider, making them an effective venue for educating the public about the effects of climate change. The exhibit at Longwood Gardens is the partnership's first step in a larger educational effort on climate change for visitors to public gardens. At the APGA annual conference held this past week, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco committed to developing educational outreach programs through public gardens. This week, directors of public gardens and others in the profession from across North America will visit Longwood Gardens to view the exhibit and take the message back to their own gardens, possibly creating their own exhibits; some already have.