Some important research is taking place up in Gothic. Nearly 30 years ago, Dr. John Harte started the longest-running warming experiment. That experiment, held at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), was called “The Warming Meadow Experiment”. Since 1990 Dr. Harte, his colleagues, and his students have studied the effects of climate warming. Those studies took place on a subalpine meadow right up the road here in Gothic, Colorado.
This experiment simulates what we predict climate change to be in 2050 if we continue emitting greenhouse gases at our current rate. Each year the the Warming Meadow Experiment was about 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding land. While we’ve learned that snowmelt occurs several weeks earlier, we’ve also learned that the soil is approximately 25% drier at this temperature. Over the course of the study, the warmed plots have gone from a wildflower-dominated subalpine meadow to sagebrush habitat. According to Dr. Harte, “several species of wildflowers are on the edge of extinction in the heated plots, declining in the control plots, and are projected to go locally extinct in the coming decades.”
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