Poison ivy is poised to be one of the big winners of a warming world

Poison ivy’s earlier appearances, increased growth, and toxicity are reportedly being heightened due to global warming.

Climate change impact: Rising temperatures and increased carbon dioxide are leading to accelerated growth of poison ivy.
* Peter Barron, aka Pesky Pete, has noticed a significant earlier start to the poison ivy season over the past 14 years of his career in poison ivy removal.
* Scientists anticipate that the vine will leverage the warmer conditions and elevated CO2 levels to grow more rapidly, larger, and develop increased toxicity.
* This could potentially impact human health, warning those with outdoor occupations or pastimes to take additional precautions to avoid poisonous rashes.

Documented research: Studies indicate that increased carbon dioxide can enhance poison ivy growth and potency.
* A late-1990s experiment, which explored plant responses to rising atmospheric CO2 levels, showed the vine growing 70% faster under high carbon dioxide conditions.
* Observations in this study also revealed that the plant produced a more potent form of urushiol – the substance causing skin rashes.
* Another study noted larger leaf growth for the vine when exposed to more carbon dioxide, and an increase in poison ivy growth when the top soil was artificially heated. The heated soil seems to boost a fungus in the soil which aids poison ivy growth.

Projected Implications: Conservationists and doctors suggest an increase in poison ivy prevalence and resultant rashes.
* Some conservationists report seeing more of the vine growing in parks and residential areas, and doctors mention seeing more patients with rashes caused by poison ivy.
* A dermatologist noted that roughly 80% of the population is allergic to the vine, though the severity varies depending on individual immune reactions. Increased exposure could lead to more severe reactions.
* The might also be a part of the reason behind an observed increase in reactions to poison ivy, as people are spending more time outdoors due to pandemic restrictions.

View original article on NPR

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