Climate change has the potential to change a lot of things. Unfortunately, the beautiful fall foliage that can be seen across the country during the season is not immune to that. Fall colours in Canada could come out earlier or even not at all because of climate change.

Lynsay Spafford, environmental science master's student and researcher has joined forces with Nova Scotia's natural resources department to share data about trees and leaves for conservation purposes. 

Through observing trees in Nova Scotia, Spafford's research shows how the climate is impacting trees and their leaves in the province and what could happen across Canada as time goes on. 

"We have been observing in the last few decades leaves are coming out earlier and earlier with increased air temperatures," Spafford told the CBC

Her work can also give insight into whether or not certain tree species are more susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity than other tree species. 

The timing of the life cycle of leaves, called leafing phenology, can be affected by a bunch of different factors like humidity, air temperature, the amount of sunlight and extreme weather. 

Since extreme weather can also play a role in changing fall colours in Canada, parts of Atlantic Canada are seeing those changes firsthand. Hurricane Dorian is likely the cause of brown patches seen in trees in Nova Scotia this fall that are interrupting the pattern of red, orange and yellow leaves.

"The leaves are moving around rapidly. They might sever some of the leaf veins that transport water and nutrients that sustain the leaves, so we might see a quicker process going from green leaves to brown leaves," said Spafford.   

In 2018, Canada had 347 million hectares of forest across the country and 77 percent of the total forest area is from the boreal forest. 

With so much land covered by trees, it's no surprise that people from around the world come to Canada in the fall in search of the best colourful foliage.

So changes to the fall colours could have an impact on tourism. Knowing when leaves will change colour is an important aspect of how businesses schedule fall tourism. 

"We've been trying to encourage people to open a little bit longer, but if the leaves aren't there, that may impact people coming to visit," said Terry Smith, CEO of Destination Cape Breton, to the CBC

And Smith believes that if the climate continues to change and affect leaves, the business of fall tourism might have to change with it. 

Since the fall colours seen across the country could be more and more affecting by the changing climate as time goes on, you might want to savour beautiful, colourful foliage you see now. 


There are stories everywhere. If you spot a newsworthy event in your city, send us a message, photo, or video @NarcityCanada on Twitter and Instagram.


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