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Op-ed N.Y. Times

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  • Peter Bernhardt
    Dear Colleagues: Dr. Richard Primack (Boston University) published an Op-ed piece in The New York TImes yesterday entitled, Early Bloomers (4/19/12). It
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 20, 2012
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      Dear Colleagues:

      Dr. Richard Primack (Boston University) published an Op-ed piece in The New York TImes yesterday entitled, "Early Bloomers" (4/19/12).  It seems his lab (in association with colleagues at Harvard) has been recording the flowering periods of herbs and shrubs around H.D. Thoreau's Walden and in Concord, in general.  As expected, they found that many species were blooming far earlier than usual, over a period of decades, and some had become very rare (or locally extinct).  As regards rarity, Prof. Primack acknowledges human-indcued changes to the landscape but the entire tone of the article blames declines in wildflower density and diversity on the effects of global warming.  Primack quotes notes kept by Thoreau but avoids mentioning a famous essay by E.B. White (written in mid-20th century) about his visit to Walden and how he found things there less than pristine and simple.  As you can see, I'm a bit disturbed by the tone of "Early Bloomers" on educated readers in the total absence of corroborative evidence.  Primack decries the rarity of swamp orchids but makes no comment on whether the Concord water table has changed with "development?"  He also makes claims about the current distribution and flowering behavior of several species that I find odd.  

      Sorry I can't provide a link.  We still get the paper edition of TNYT for my 88-year old Mommy.  I'm a mean botanist but a relatively good son.

      Peter Bernhardt
    • Paul Goldstein
      Hmmm. My impression (from papers by Farnsworth & Ogurcak) was that concentrations of rare plants in New England generally appear to be clustering in
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 20, 2012
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        Hmmm. My impression (from papers by Farnsworth & Ogurcak) was that
        concentrations of rare plants in New England generally appear to be
        clustering in increasingly isolated hotspots and that, yes, while
        competition for pollinators may intensity in such areas and can result
        in a cascade of disappearances, we need need to be cautious about
        over-attributing these impacts to climate change versus straight up
        habitat fragmentation. Having not yet seen the Times piece, I would
        add that the flight seasons of bees and other insects are advancing as
        well.

        Out of curiosity, which of Primack's assertions about flowering
        distributions/behavior struck you as odd?

        Paul

        On Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 10:48 AM, Peter Bernhardt <bernhap2@...> wrote:
        > Dear Colleagues:
        >
        > Dr. Richard Primack (Boston University) published an Op-ed piece in The New
        > York TImes yesterday entitled, "Early Bloomers" (4/19/12).  It seems his lab
        > (in association with colleagues at Harvard) has been recording the flowering
        > periods of herbs and shrubs around H.D. Thoreau's Walden and in Concord, in
        > general.  As expected, they found that many species were blooming far
        > earlier than usual, over a period of decades, and some had become very rare
        > (or locally extinct).  As regards rarity, Prof. Primack acknowledges
        > human-indcued changes to the landscape but the entire tone of the article
        > blames declines in wildflower density and diversity on the effects of global
        > warming.  Primack quotes notes kept by Thoreau but avoids mentioning a
        > famous essay by E.B. White (written in mid-20th century) about his visit to
        > Walden and how he found things there less than pristine and simple.  As you
        > can see, I'm a bit disturbed by the tone of "Early Bloomers" on educated
        > readers in the total absence of corroborative evidence.  Primack decries the
        > rarity of swamp orchids but makes no comment on whether the Concord water
        > table has changed with "development?"  He also makes claims about the
        > current distribution and flowering behavior of several species that I find
        > odd.
        >
        > Sorry I can't provide a link.  We still get the paper edition of TNYT for my
        > 88-year old Mommy.  I'm a mean botanist but a relatively good son.
        >
        > Peter Bernhardt
        >
        > _______________________________________________
        > Pollinator mailing list
        > Pollinator@...
        > http://lists.sonic.net/mailman/listinfo/pollinator
        >



        --
        "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun
        the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion
        wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it
        will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a
        gazelle--when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."
        - Roger Bannister

        Paul Z. Goldstein, PhD.
        National Museum of Natural History, E-523
        P.O. Box 37012, MRC 168
        Washington, DC  20013-7012
        Phone: (202) 633-4584
        Fax: (202) 786-9422
        Mobile: (651) 587-5233

        Department of Entomology
        University of Maryland
        4112 Plant Sciences Bldg.
        College Park, MD 20742
      • david almquist
        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/opinion/early-bloomers.html To: bernhap2@slu.edu CC: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com; pollinator@nappc.org;
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 20, 2012
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          http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/opinion/early-bloomers.html

           

          To: bernhap2@...
          CC: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com; pollinator@...; peter.raven@...; Michael.Arduser@...; j.alcock@...; valone@...
          From: drpzgoldstein@...
          Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2012 15:21:03 -0400
          Subject: [beemonitoring] Re: [Pollinator] Op-ed N.Y. Times

           
          Hmmm. My impression (from papers by Farnsworth & Ogurcak) was that
          concentrations of rare plants in New England generally appear to be
          clustering in increasingly isolated hotspots and that, yes, while
          competition for pollinators may intensity in such areas and can result
          in a cascade of disappearances, we need need to be cautious about
          over-attributing these impacts to climate change versus straight up
          habitat fragmentation. Having not yet seen the Times piece, I would
          add that the flight seasons of bees and other insects are advancing as
          well.

          Out of curiosity, which of Primack's assertions about flowering
          distributions/behavior struck you as odd?

          Paul

          On Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 10:48 AM, Peter Bernhardt <bernhap2@...> wrote:
          > Dear Colleagues:
          >
          > Dr. Richard Primack (Boston University) published an Op-ed piece in The New
          > York TImes yesterday entitled, "Early Bloomers" (4/19/12).  It seems his lab
          > (in association with colleagues at Harvard) has been recording the flowering
          > periods of herbs and shrubs around H.D. Thoreau's Walden and in Concord, in
          > general.  As expected, they found that many species were blooming far
          > earlier than usual, over a period of decades, and some had become very rare
          > (or locally extinct).  As regards rarity, Prof. Primack acknowledges
          > human-indcued changes to the landscape but the entire tone of the article
          > blames declines in wildflower density and diversity on the effects of global
          > warming.  Primack quotes notes kept by Thoreau but avoids mentioning a
          > famous essay by E.B. White (written in mid-20th century) about his visit to
          > Walden and how he found things there less than pristine and simple.  As you
          > can see, I'm a bit disturbed by the tone of "Early Bloomers" on educated
          > readers in the total absence of corroborative evidence.  Primack decries the
          > rarity of swamp orchids but makes no comment on whether the Concord water
          > table has changed with "development?"  He also makes claims about the
          > current distribution and flowering behavior of several species that I find
          > odd.
          >
          > Sorry I can't provide a link.  We still get the paper edition of TNYT for my
          > 88-year old Mommy.  I'm a mean botanist but a relatively good son.
          >
          > Peter Bernhardt
          >
          > _______________________________________________
          > Pollinator mailing list
          > Pollinator@...
          > http://lists.sonic.net/mailman/listinfo/pollinator
          >

          --
          "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun
          the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion
          wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it
          will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a
          gazelle--when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."
          - Roger Bannister

          Paul Z. Goldstein, PhD.
          National Museum of Natural History, E-523
          P.O. Box 37012, MRC 168
          Washington, DC  20013-7012
          Phone: (202) 633-4584
          Fax: (202) 786-9422
          Mobile: (651) 587-5233

          Department of Entomology
          University of Maryland
          4112 Plant Sciences Bldg.
          College Park, MD 20742

        • Peter Bernhardt
          Dear Paul: Several people responded to the request that they read the NYT Op-ed piece by Dr. Primack so this reply will be shared with the group. Everyone
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 23, 2012
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            Dear Paul:

            Several people responded to the request that they read the NYT Op-ed piece by Dr. Primack so this reply will be shared with the group.  Everyone needs to note that I was not attempting to criticize Primack's essay.  There were so many "throwaway" statements about wildflowers in the text and illustration captions my honest response was...REALLY?  My earliest research in New York and my current research in Missouri concentrate on spring-flowering wildflowers so I have some familiarity with some of the species mentioned in the essay.

            1) Primack wrote that red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) did not have a flowering period as flexible as other species.  I've grown that species in my own garden since 1994 and taken it through several generations.  Following the mild winter and sudden warm up the second week in March (2012) my plants flowered at least two weeks in advance and most of them are now spent.  In fact, I find that this wildflower is so sensitive to warm periods it usually flowers before the late Apri-early Mayl arrival of the ruby-throat hummingbird.  That doesn't spoil seed set either.  Back in the 1960's Walter Macior found that red columbines were also pollinated by queen bumblebees with, or without, the approval of hummingbirds.  I believe there was a paper published in the last two decades showing that the plant will pollinate itself in the absence of visitors.
            2) Primack's caption stated that sweet pepper bush (Clethra) is a native American but southerly species that has made recent inroads in Thoreau's territory.  How recent is recent?  Mabel Osgood Wright described stands of Clethra in New England in a book published in 1901.  Her description indicated she'd seen it several times as she knew that it's looks in bloom were often spoiled by lots of dead wood. 
            3)  Primack stated that the introduced garlic mustard now enters and thrives where native wildflowers have declined.  Here in Missouri the ecologists at Washington U. treat it as a pernicious, aggressive and frighteningly fertile weed.  Native wildflowers don't vacate and leave a gap to fill.  Garlic mustard out competes them and smothers them. 

            Once again, I agree with you that as some wildflowers bloom earlier some native bees emerge earlier.  That, at least, seems to be the case with our collections of bees on bellwort and yellow lady's slipper over the past couple of weeks.  Of course, these specimens must be identified to species to see if they parallel the SAME species we netted last year when the winter was cold and we had the usual slow Spring.  Once again, I'm not attempting to refute anything Dr. Primack wrote.  I've cited a number of his papers recently and will continue to do so.  I do question the implications that run through his Op-ed piece that global warming plays the greatest role in changing the distribution, abundance and diversity of wildflowers at Walden Pond.  Back in the mid-20th century E.B. White wrote an open letter to the long-dead Thoreau alerting him to the fact of commercialization and build up at Walden.  

            Sincerely, Peter      

            On Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 2:21 PM, Paul Goldstein <drpzgoldstein@...> wrote:
            Hmmm.  My impression (from papers by Farnsworth & Ogurcak) was that
            concentrations of rare plants in New England generally appear to be
            clustering in increasingly isolated hotspots and that, yes, while
            competition for pollinators may intensity in such areas and can result
            in a cascade of disappearances, we need need to be cautious about
            over-attributing these impacts to climate change versus straight up
            habitat fragmentation.  Having not yet seen the Times piece, I would
            add that the flight seasons of bees and other insects are advancing as
            well.

            Out of curiosity, which of Primack's assertions about flowering
            distributions/behavior struck you as odd?

            Paul

            On Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 10:48 AM, Peter Bernhardt <bernhap2@...> wrote:
            > Dear Colleagues:
            >
            > Dr. Richard Primack (Boston University) published an Op-ed piece in The New
            > York TImes yesterday entitled, "Early Bloomers" (4/19/12).  It seems his lab
            > (in association with colleagues at Harvard) has been recording the flowering
            > periods of herbs and shrubs around H.D. Thoreau's Walden and in Concord, in
            > general.  As expected, they found that many species were blooming far
            > earlier than usual, over a period of decades, and some had become very rare
            > (or locally extinct).  As regards rarity, Prof. Primack acknowledges
            > human-indcued changes to the landscape but the entire tone of the article
            > blames declines in wildflower density and diversity on the effects of global
            > warming.  Primack quotes notes kept by Thoreau but avoids mentioning a
            > famous essay by E.B. White (written in mid-20th century) about his visit to
            > Walden and how he found things there less than pristine and simple.  As you
            > can see, I'm a bit disturbed by the tone of "Early Bloomers" on educated
            > readers in the total absence of corroborative evidence.  Primack decries the
            > rarity of swamp orchids but makes no comment on whether the Concord water
            > table has changed with "development?"  He also makes claims about the
            > current distribution and flowering behavior of several species that I find
            > odd.
            >
            > Sorry I can't provide a link.  We still get the paper edition of TNYT for my
            > 88-year old Mommy.  I'm a mean botanist but a relatively good son.
            >
            > Peter Bernhardt
            >
            > _______________________________________________
            > Pollinator mailing list
            > Pollinator@...
            > http://lists.sonic.net/mailman/listinfo/pollinator
            >



            --
            "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun
            the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion
            wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it
            will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a
            gazelle--when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."
            - Roger Bannister

            Paul Z. Goldstein, PhD.
            National Museum of Natural History, E-523
            P.O. Box 37012, MRC 168
            Washington, DC  20013-7012
            Phone: (202) 633-4584
            Fax: (202) 786-9422
            Mobile: (651) 587-5233

            Department of Entomology
            University of Maryland
            4112 Plant Sciences Bldg.
            College Park, MD 20742

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