Fall foliage watchers can rejoice in the news that climate change may make the incredible autumn colors found in the Northeast and Midwest last a bit longer – but it spells bad news for the planet. New research from Princeton University shows that global warming will cause tree leaves to respond in wildly unpredictable ways come autumn. According to Modern Farmer, the research shows that leaves will start changing color later in the year and will keep their bright colors for longer.

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The Princeton team developed their conclusions by looking at 20 varieties of trees ranging from those that need full sun to partial shade and full shade, using the USA National Phenology Network and their own direct observations in the Harvard Forest of Petersham, MA. Their findings show that by the end of the 21st Century, Massachusetts foliage season will most likely happen in November, instead of October as it does currently. A study of trees in Alaska, meanwhile, indicated that foliage there wouldn’t be as greatly affected as that of the New England forests.

Related: Could Moving Endangered Trees Out of Their Natural Habitat Save Them from Climate Change?

Trees change colors in the fall because the shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures cause them to shed their leaves and go into their winter dormancy period. That they’re changing later and lasting longer spells bad news for the planet because it’s a sign that the seasons are shifting and will likely be followed by many other species; for example, crops may go to seed later and animals will wait longer before starting their winter food harvest.

Via Modern Farmer

Images via Indy Kethdy and stahishcj, Flickr Creative Commons