Year 3, Month 1, Day 17: You Used To Look Happy To Greet Me

More on the Edelweiss, this time from the UK Mail:

Alpine plants such as the edelwiss could become extinct if summers continue to get warmer, scientist have warned.

The cold-loving flowers are being forced higher up mountainsides by plants that thrive in higher temperatures, according to the first pan-European study of changing mountain vegetation published in the Journal Nature Climate Change.

Sent January 12:

The drama of climate change-triggered extinctions is unfolding before our eyes. Rapidly rising temperatures and changing weather patterns are now affecting the ecosystems of the European alps, threatening the survival of countless species of plants and animals, and turning the “small and bright, clean and white” Edelweiss into a historical footnote.

Should that tiny Alpine flower vanish from the wild, one of the most-loved songs in the English-speaking world will become a museum piece, devoid of its connection to an actual place, an actual family, an actual story, or the achingly evocative voice of Christopher Plummer. Another victim.

All over the planet, human cultures are likewise endangered; while people in the developed world may not find much sympathy for remote tribes whose habitats will be destroyed in the next fifty years, those societies have songs that mean as much to them as Rogers and Hammerstein’s beautiful “Edelweiss” does to us.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 1, Day 13: Bless My Homeland Forever

The Scotsman notes a new study on the impending loss of alpine flowers and plants:

A study, involving biologists from 13 countries, revealed that climate change was having a more serious impact on alpine vegetation than they had expected.

The first cross-Europe survey of changing mountain vegetation has showed that some could vanish within decades.

Michael Gottfried, of the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments (Gloria) programme, said: “Many cold-loving species are literally running out of mountain. In some of the lower mountains in Europe, we could see alpine meadows disappearing and dwarf shrubs taking over within the next few decades.”

The Gloria team, led from Austria, analysed 867 vegetation samples from 60 different summits across Europe, including in the Cairngorms in Scotland.

They compared results from 2001 and 2008 and found strong evidence to suggest cold-loving plants were being pushed out by species that preferred warmer conditions.

Among species at threat in Europe could be the edelweiss, praised in the song of the same name in The Sound of Music. It is specially adapted to the high-life at altitudes of between 6,500ft to 9,500ft. Its snow white, star-shaped leaves are covered in woolly hairs to protect them from the cold.

Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever.

Sent January 9. My daughter turned 7 years old today; we love to sing that song.

The news comes in from everywhere: climate change is having a significant impact on local and regional ecosystems. While diverse ecological systems are affected by the global greenhouse effect in different ways, there is one thing that all the reports have in common — one phrase that’s universally applicable, whether it’s describing the Arctic or the Amazon, a Senegalese forest or a Scottish meadow.

“More serious than expected.”

Listening to climate-change denialists, one could easily form the impression that because climatologists’ predictions are frequently inaccurate, there really isn’t that much to fret about. After all, if scientists are wrong so often, why worry? But the sleep-wrecking fact is that when the experts err, it’s virtually without exception by underestimating the damage done. The sudden introduction into the atmosphere of millions of years’ worth of buried carbon has triggered a cascade of consequences, all (you guessed it!) more serious than expected.

Warren Senders