Dire predictions, and an appeal
Mr. A. Hopkinson, 29 Curlew Drive, IRLAM M44 6HZ
Chamaerops No.31 Summer 1998

I am a mature student attempting to produce a project for Salford University on the effect of global warming on bio diversity, specifically on palm trees, based on assessments by the UNEP/WHO intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The 1997 update on the 1995 Second Assessment Report states, “The majority of regions where tropical grasslands currently dominate are predicted to change to temperate grassland or desert by the 2080’s, in fact tropical grasslands will shrink from 8% to 1% of the global land area. Some regions which currently support different types of tropical forest will change to savannah, grasslands or even desert.” The report goes on to say ‘results suggest that the potential bio mass between latitudes 30 degrees north and 60 degrees north will increase by 70% between the present day and the 2080’s”. These predictions are dire when considering the future of tropical flora and fauna.

There are obvious examples of indiscriminately introduced plants, animals, birds, fish and insects adversely affecting the natural balance of the environments into which they are introduced. For this reason it would be irresponsible to suggest en masse transplanting to suit the changing conditions; but I wish to argue the case for palms as one of the exceptions to this rule.

It is not inconceivable that all future seeds of many of the tropical rain forest palm species, and those that are germinating, and the seedlings and young trees that are growing now, could die and become extinct due to the affects of global warming in the lifetime of a human being already born.

Due to the slow growing habit of palms, and the length of time they need to reach maturity and seed, it is unlikely that they will be able to adapt to a continually changing climate. This same slow growing habit makes them easy subjects to control and should we selectively choose to introduce them elsewhere, the risk of adverse side affects from their spread is negligible.

The reason I am writing this is the lack of information or research sources I have been able to uncover, Manchester Central Library contains two books specifically on palms, (Palms, Alec Blombery & Tony Rodd and Palms for the Home and Garden Lynette Stewart., both by Australian authors. (Should IPCC predictions prove correct Australia is going to be one of the major sufferers of global warming, with catastrophic amounts of desert expansion) and though they contain some general information, they are a little insular and superficial for my purposes. The University Library is equally unhelpful.

What I would like (if possible) is a research source, or sources, that could not only name the 2,500-,600-,700? palm species, but place them in the families to which they belong. I would require their geographic locations and the extreme highs and lows of temperatures experienced by them in situ, especially at the boundaries of the environment in which they are found, with special attention being paid to those from mountainous regions at high altitudes. I would also like to know which palms need both male and female subjects in order to produce viable seed and a brief description of soil types for which each species has a preference.

I accept that the subject of global warming is controversial, and should anyone wish to clarify the predictions I have quoted, they can be found in a booklet I received from the Met Office, entitled ‘Climate Change and its Impacts; a Global Perspective. Some recent results from the U.K research programme’. It is dated December 1997, and produced by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, in conjunction with the Met Office. Should anyone know of any contrasting reports, please advise. Any and all information you can afford me in this project will be warmly appreciated.

Due to a recent operation, a relapse, a move of house, and a death in the family, my completion date for this project has been extended. Originally it should have been June 98, but now I have until at least next Easter, maybe even July/August, should the next Easter assignment be titled. I would be happy to supply copies of the finished project to the editors of participating societies for publishing in their relevant journals should they feel it worthy. For those people willing to help I would like to express my gratitude in advance, and to emphasise that, whether you wish to relate you have a Trachy growing at the bottom of your garden, or even, Trachy’s won’t grow in your garden. As long as I can place your information on a map, it is significant. For those of you who feel you have more diverse information to divulge, I wish to know everything, from which palms will grow naturally in the ground from seed at your location, germination techniques, soil studies, relevant climate information, theories on pot planting, raised beds, drainage, protection, pests, or maybe you have managed to grow a particularly contrary or fickle palm, I would be interested to know your theories as to why you succeeded where others have failed. The reverse is also of relevance, failures are as important as successes.

Those of you who have already researched topics in this field will understand the difficulties I have encountered. If anybody can advise me on obtaining copies of existing Reports, Thesis, Assignments, or Projects pertaining to any aspect of Global warming, Bio diversity or palm related topics I would be immensely grateful. Would people who are willing to help me please remember to name sources, or to provide provenance for information where possible, as what we palm enthusiasts become familiar with as common knowledge, really is not. This will be of tremendous help, as it will save me extra journeys to places like the Lindsey Library or Met Office records, when I know what I am looking for, and where to look.

I am sorry to give you so much to think about but I really can not think of any organisations other than Palm Societies likely to have the contacts or resources that would be able or willing to help. I recently sent a similar copy of this letter to the R.H.S. believing that such a prestigious organisation would have the interest and resources to help, they replied “Re. Your enquiry on Palms, I think that the European Palm Society may be of some assistance. Their address is......”. During a phone call to Kew Gardens to enquire who to address requests for information to, I was advised, “There is an organisation called The Palm Centre, run by a Mr Gibbons”. This brought me full circle, as my initial enquiries were addressed to Tony King requesting names and addresses of fellow members he felt would be most able to help. As the foundation of this project has changed since its conception, I wanted to gather as much information as possible myself, thus enabling me to ask more precise and direct questions of our membership.

To answer my enquiries fully would take the equivalent of a book by itself, and I realise that it is unlikely that anyone could supply this information personally, if this is the case could you recommend Botanical Institutes/Gardens from relevant areas of the world, with a contact name and appropriate addresses where possible. What I am really asking is, If it was you who was trying to put this project together, how would you get the information you require and who would you contact?

I would also like as much free-based data as possible on the subject of who is growing which palms where, to enable me to build a strong argument on conservation and relocation issues. To this end, would it be possible for you to use your influence to have this letter published not only in Chamaerops, but in Principes, Fous de Palmiers, The Hardy Palm International, and any other publication subscribed to by fellow enthusiasts? (I apologise for my ignorance in not being able to refer to them by name.)

Please address all correspondence to:
Mr. A. Hopkinson, 29 Curlew Drive, IRLAM M44 6HZ, UK


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