Climate change is shifting Columbus' growing season
It's the start of the spring planting season. But what we plant in Ohio — and when — could look different in the coming decades due to climate change.
Threat level: The projected shift could be so drastic that our iconic state tree, the buckeye, would fare better in cooler climates … Up North. Unfathomable.
Driving the news: A recent map from the U.S. Department of Agriculture highlights how our planting zones are expected to transform by 2070.
What's happening: The USDA uses average minimum winter temperatures to create its Plant Hardiness Zone maps.
- Today, Columbus is in zone 6a, as is most of Ohio. But our winters are getting warmer.
- By 2070, the USDA predicts our region will be in zone 8, which today includes South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
What they're saying: "Picture a current-day Arkansas summer — we're trending in that direction by the end of the 21st century," Ohio State University climatologist Aaron Wilson tells Axios.
- Our range already warmed out of zone 5 when maps were updated in 2012, he notes.
Zoom in: This means Ohio farmers may someday swap corn and soybeans for cotton and rice.
- Shorter, warmer winters could also change how we maintain crops as they're exposed to new pests and diseases.
Between the lines: The warming could also disrupt a delicate ecosystem of native plants, pollinators and wildlife that depend on each other — or prevent your favorite flowers from thriving in your garden.
What you can do: Individuals' small actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can add up. (Though systemic change will also be required.)
- Make your home more energy efficient, such as setting your thermostat a little colder in the winter and warmer in the summer.
- Drive less, or carpool.
- Bring reusable bags to the grocery store.
- Recycle and compost your waste instead of sending it to the landfill.
The bottom line: "The worst thing we can do is not talk about it or plan for it," Wilson says.
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