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April 18, 2013

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Sea levels have been rising globally because water expands as it warms, and there has been widespread melting of glaciers and ice sheets. Comstock said New Yorkers can expect greater extremes in lake levels and flow regimes, spring maxima higher than or similar to the present and summer rainfall patterns unlikely to meet increased plant water requirements. With increase in heavy rainfall events, Comstock said it could create problems for field access.

Warmer winters would also result in more pests and the spreading of some plant species such as poison ivy, according to Comstock. He used mites as a common example of a pest likely to get worse. 

Comstock said climate change will continue to affect New York’s ecosystems and biodiversity, including shifts in species ranges and sharp declines in populations of certain species. In the future, New Yorkers can expect:

• Northward expansion of the range of some invasive species found in warmer climates, such as kudzu (an aggressive weed) or the hemlock woolly adelgid (an aphid-like pest of hemlock trees), threatening native species and ecosystems in New York.

• Increasing mosquito populations, along with the danger of mosquito-borne disease.

• Increasing populations of white-tailed deer as winters grow milder. Deer will survive more winters and become more of a problem for drivers on roadways, while doing more damage to the crops, plants, and suburban landscapes.

According to the presentation, species in isolated habitats or at the southern edge of their range are particularly vulnerable to climate change. It is predicted by the end of the century, it is likely that New York state will completely lose its spruce-fir forests. 

“Our ecosystems will be disassembling and assembling in new ways,” explained Comstock. “Species ranges may shift several hundreds of miles.”

Comstock told audience members to look to the south as what is seen in Georgia now is probably similar to what New York will look like in the future. 

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