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Saturday is Taste of Lee day

June 23, 2017
By JOYCE COMINGORE ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

If you haven't heard by now, the Tropical Fruit Fair organized by the UF/IFAS Lee County Extension and Caloosa Rare Fruit Exchange starts Saturday, June 24, at 9 a.m., and lasts until 2 p.m., at City Gate Ministries, 1735 Jackson St., in downtown Fort Myers. This is at the corner of 2nd Street and Jackson Street, next to the Gywnne Institute across from the parking garage.

Unfortunately, last year, food treats ran out by noon, so arrive early. This is your chance to taste and decide what you want to grow, then buy what local farmers and your neighbors are growing.

Admission is $2, with children under 12 free. Pay at the door. No registration required. Parking is free.

Farmers and fishermen will be bringing their wares, cheese, honey, herbs, fruits, vegetables and seafood. Tropical trees and herbs will be available for sale, along with lots of information on how to manage and grow them.

Classes offered will start at 10 a.m. and be offered until 2 p.m. Get lucky at the hourly raffles.

Westward ho!

I was reading about a new migration. American settlers back in the 1800s moved westward to find new land and opportunities. "Go West young man," was the buzz phrase of that day.

They shaped our infrastructure for years to come. Now I'm reading about a new, different type of migration shaping our nation these past few decades.

My formative years were spent in West Lafayette, Indiana, from grade school to college. So, news from the Agriculture School at Purdue University catches my eye. That's where my dad worked. A research team led by professor Songlin Fei, released its 30-year study, revealing that trees are migrating; not just northerly as climate change warms, but to their utter amazement, westward. The trees responses are species specific. Deciduous trees like white oaks, sugar maples and American hollies are primarily moving westward and evergreens are moving northward. Based on 30 years of data gathered from 1980 to 2015 by the U.S. Forest Service, they published their findings in Science Advances.

Their studies found, not just temperature, which was a given in the northerly shifting, but precipitation was also a factor in specific species shifting. Precipitation had a stronger impact than the temperature on forests, but both are part of the climate changing effects. A 73 percent shift is going westward and 62 perent are shifting northward.

Now, I'm not saying trees sprout little feet and walk off, but the climate change regulates their seedlings dispersal and sprouting. When water becomes scarce, seedlings will sprout in areas where there is moisture, and shifting rain patterns mean the West is becoming wetter and the East drier. Fires, land use changes, pests and lights do contribute. However, the team feels that at least 20 percent of the changes in population areas are driven by rainfall patterns influenced by human-caused climate change.

It is obvious that evergreens need colder weather, so they acclimate to where their needs are met. The changing climate has pushed trees about 20 miles north and 25 miles west over 30 years. The scarlet oak has moved more than 127 miles in these 30 years.

There is a negative impact on areas that depend on certain types of trees staying put. Their ecological functions include providing shelter, food sources, water filtration for local plants and animals. Why does it matter if we replace one tree for another? That is a question yet to be answered. An ecologist at the Quebec Forest Research Center, Loie D'Oraneville, said, "Trees are highly dynamic organisms, constantly moving in response to climatic shifts like recent glaciations or other disturbances."

I had a new word to look-up, empirical data. Empirical evidence, also known as sense experience, is a collective term for the knowledge or source of knowledge acquired by the means of the senses, particularly by observation and experimentation. It reveals the impact of climate change happening on the ground, now.

Soil, insects, animals, plants, all that depend on these trees for shelter and food, are thrown off balance by these changes. As greenhouse gases reach new highs, our land and sea temperatures click upwards, affecting weather patterns that lead to heat waves, floods and droughts, overwhelming plants' and animals' ability to cope. Their delicate system is thrown off balance.

Another phenomenon in Indiana is the early arrival of cicadas. Listening as a child to their continual loud singing and buzzing, I would pluck their glassy looking cast-off shells stuck on the trees they clung to when they emerged from their long hibernations nap. Male cicadas make their attention getting noises by vibrating membranes on the undersides of their abdomens. Females can't make the noises, they just lay the eggs that develop into the nymphs, burrowing and burying them into the ground.

Generally, the masses emerge together every 17 years, creating overwhelming swarms. Crawling up out of the tree roots and warm ground, grabbing hold of the posts or trees above, they shed their shells, becoming winged, singing insects that mate, living about a month. For the most part, they are more nuisance than harmful. Those stragglers emerging off season are quickly eaten by cats, dogs, pigs, squirrels and birds. It is when there is a massive number hatching that defy their predators' ability to devour them all, that they can successfully swarm in broods.

This same group of scientists have found cicadas emerging four years earlier than expected, as this is the brood due in 2021. Cicadas have been growing faster than expected. Since the larvae nibble on the tree roots before emerging, they are wondering if the displacement of trees moving north and west might be the cause of the cicada's early arrival. They still expect the bulk to mature in 2021.

Trees band together in forests. Can you see the forest for the trees? Our lives are better because of them. Thank one today.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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