Climate change in the Rockies could make this Colorado wildflower vanish forever
Researchers tracked the sentinel northern rock jasmine near Crested Butte and their results don’t bode well for other species
February 22, 2018
A creamy jasmine wildflower once common across the Colorado mountains may be vanishing forever as climate change brings warmer and drier conditions.
That's the conclusion unveiled Wednesday by scientists who conducted a 25-year experiment above Crested Butte near Gothic at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory tracking northern rock jasmine, a delicate white-petaled species also known as fairy candelabra. These wildflowers, a type of nonfragrant primrose, are typically found at elevations between 5,000 feet and 17,000 feet across the northern hemisphere.
The scientists simulated conditions that conservative climate change models indicate will be likely, continuing a trend that a preponderance of scientists have linked to climate change caused by human emissions of heat-trapping "greenhouse" pollution.
Their results show that a temperature increase of an additional 3 degrees Fahrenheit would cause the "local extinction" of northern rock jasmine in the area above Crested Butte, where abundant wildflowers have long been celebrated for their beauty.
"My work shows this amount of warming causes local extinction, which could lead to more widespread extinction," said University of Colorado evolutionary ecologist Anne Marie Panetta, the lead author of a research paper published Wednesday, after peer review, in a scientific journal called Science Advances.