Wednesday, 12 March 2014

How will Climate Change Affect your Landscape

Plants and climate always go hand in hand. When an environment is green and clean, chances of erratic climate also becomes lesser. Ironically, the increased rate of natural disasters, the untimely occurrences of storms and rains – all point towards the overall climate change. This is not a positive sign for garden landscapes any time!

Change in Climate and Shifting Landscapes in the Bay area

As it has been found out in some studies, the Bay Area, along the coast of California, is likely to face a major impact of climate change. Researchers predicted that these changes might occur in terms of infrastructure flooding, ecological challenge, land use modification etc. With the climate getting warmer continuously, scientists are expecting that the microclimates of the Bay Area will shift and predict that the plant communities of the area could move with the changing conditions. But it is not known to the scientists how these changes in the climate might affect the region’s wildlife and parks and how rapidly the vegetation could migrate to the new areas. Presently, the Bay Area plays home to a number of microclimates, diverse in nature, and it is basically warmer around the inland and cooler on the coast. But with the rising temperature and changing rainfall patterns, scientists are assuming that many of these microclimates will shift either closer to the coast, or to higher elevations.

How to adapt these climate changes?

Since there are a number of significant changes in the climate around the Bay Area, it is of utmost importance to adapt strategies to deal with them. To begin with, climatic water deficit, which refers to the difference between the amount of water that a plant would use if it had it and the actual amount that’s available, is an aspect that is likely to affect Bay Area landscapes.

Landscape experts even emphasize on how warmer air temperature would increase evapotranspiration (water lost through evaporation from leaves of plats as well as the soil), which in turn would increase a plant’s demand for water. Therefore, the focus would increasingly be on using water-conserving plants such as Golden Yarrow, Tree Poppy, Santa Barbara Ceanothu etc. Planting a wide array of evergreen perennials, bulbs and shrubs, or ornamental grasses that need less water could be another option to create an eye-pleasing bright spot that won’t demand a lot of water for growth and maintenance. Western Blue Flax, Sulphur Buckwheat and Douglas Iris are some waterwise species that landscape experts recommend for barren spaces or those with inadequate water supply.

Many reputed companies offering custom landscape services are also considering developing certain planning tools for assessing the probable risks of flood. People who live in a flood prone area and are worried about erosion and runoff on their property should opt for some native plants to control erosion and stabilize the soils. According to experienced landscape professionals, cool and moist months are ideal to start these "soil keepers", which would also help in decreasing the future irrigation costs. California Fuschia, Blue-eyed Grass and California Redbud are some species that will help in slope stabilization.

The Mediterranean climate of Southern California is prone to fire, which makes it important to create firewise landscapes. The key to creating such spaces depend on the right plant selection and placement, along with proper maintenance. Landscape experts emphasize on using plants low in available fuel and high in water content, in addition to decreasing mass plantings by spacing large shrubs and trees apart to prevent "fuel ladders". Maintaining the landscape by removing dead wood, using proper trimming and providing appropriate irrigation are other crucial aspects to build a fire-safe space.

So, Bay Area landscape owners should keep these factors in mind to help their spaces adapt to the changing climate.

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