September 30, 2012

The Colors of Fall: Are Autumn Reds and Golds Passing Us By?

Climate change, land-use change, introduced pests and diseases altering fall foliage

The falling leaves drift by the window, the autumn leaves of red and gold ...

It was 1947 when Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to the popular song "Autumn Leaves." Sixty-five years ago, Mercer likely didn't think the reds and golds of fall might someday fade.

But that's what's beginning to happen in U.S. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Autumn colors were different there a century, or even a half-century, ago, and they will likely continue to change, says ecologist David Foster, principal investigator at the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in Massachusetts.