UK plants 'flowering earlier'
Published 07/04/2010 | 06:16
UK plants are coming into flower earlier in the face of rising temperatures, according to a study which is based on nature records dating back 250 years.
The research, which draws on observations from the public ranging from Victorian vicars to Springwatch viewers, reveals that each 1C rise in temperature has seen blooms appearing five days earlier.
The change has been greatest in the past 25 years, with flowers coming out on average between two and 12 days earlier in the past quarter century than in any previous 25-year period.
The study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B used almost 400,000 records of annual first flowering dates for more than 400 species of plant such as hawthorn at sites across the UK.
The records, which stretch back to 1753, were used to create a 250-year index of the first flowering dates of the 405 species to show the impact of climate change on whole communities of plants.
The index showed a close link with the mean Central England Temperature - a record of average temperatures across the middle of England dating back to 1659 - for February to April, with each 1C rise correlating to first flowering dates occurring five days earlier.
The data came from the UK Phenology Network, which is now run as the Nature's Calendar project by the Woodland Trust and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, a national survey which relies on "citizen science" - records gathered from members of the public.
Richard Smithers, senior conservation adviser for the Woodland Trust said the index helped scientists see what was happening to the natural world as a whole - and acted as the canary in the coal mine.