Original article by David Marley of the Woodland Trust. Read about a public participation project which is monitoring climate changes in the UK through observations of naturally occurring phenomena. Find out how you can also get involved.
If you have a feeling that seasons are changing in Britain, a nationwide research project run by the Woodland Trust and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology suggests that evidence is accumulating for your view. The following is an update of the research, to which we all can contribute.
Is leaf colour changing later in the year?
Sections in this article
Climate Change and the Seasons
Autumn is getting later and shorter according to new findings from our nationwide survey into how climate change may be affecting seasonal events. Observations gathered by hundreds of people across the UK have helped to confirm that changing weather patterns are resulting in an accelerated trend toward a delayed, shorter autumn. For example, migrant birds such as tree pipits, reed warblers, swallows and swifts, which traditionally would fly off to warmer climes, are now delaying their departure from the UK because of warmer temperatures.
Autumn seems to be getting later and shorter
Thousands of recorders have been helping the Woodland Trust, the UK's leading woodland conservation charity, and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to build up a picture of the natural events associated with autumn. Autumn recorders have been noting leaf colour, leaf fall, the departure of swifts and swallows and the arrival of fieldfares and redwings. Early indications show the timing of these naturally occurring events, or phenology as it is known, in the year 2000 happened several days later than they did in autumn 1999: beech leaf colouring on average three days later; field maple five days later; departure of swifts seven days later.
More recorders joined the team observing natural events that they see in woods, gardens, parks and high streets in 2001. Traditionally, people have recorded spring events but not what happens in autumn. It is important to fill this gap with more recorders, in order to get a good geographical spread to develop a full picture of what happens across the UK. We are calling for new recorders to join the 3000 people who contributed to the spring survey, the largest scheme of its kind in Europe.
You and your family can get involved in the research
During autumn 2001 the Trust's recorders looked at:
A simple recording form is available from the Woodland Trust on 0800 026 9650 or by logging on to the UK Phenology Network Nature's Calendar website.
The website also has historical records dating back to 1736 from which you can create your own graphs to help you to find out more about phenology and climate change.
You may want to read the article 'Challenge for Conservation' by Dr Pam Berry, which shows why the impact of climate change differs between different species. See also 'A Butterfly's Map of Climate Change' for a fascinating insight into how butterflies may illustrate to us the patterns of a changing climate in the UK.
You can still participate in this project. Visit the UK Phenology Network to become a recorder of seasons across the UK. Visit the UK Woodland Trust, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and the European Phenology Network web sites for further information.