Plants flower a month earlier in UK due to climate change | Smart News
Due to climate change, plants in the UK are flowering on average 26 days earlier than before 1987, a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B find.
The researchers looked at more than 400,000 records from Nature’s Calendar, a citizen science database with sightings dating back to 1736. They looked at the earliest bloom dates of 406 species of flowering plants and compared them to temperature measurements. The researchers found that the average first bloom date before 1987 was May 12, but from 1987 to 2019 that average jumped to April 16, almost a month earlier, according to the study.
“The results are truly alarming because of the ecological risks associated with earlier flowering times,” study lead author Ulf Büntgen, a climatologist at the University of Cambridge, said in a statement. A late frost can kill early bloomers, but Büntgen says an even bigger risk is ecological mismatch, which occurs when a relationship between wildlife is interrupted by changes in the timing of life cycle events like reproduction or migration.
“A certain plant flowers, it attracts a particular type of insect, which attracts a particular type of bird, and so on,” Büntgen explains in the statement. “But if one component reacts faster than the others, there’s a risk that they’ll get out of sync, which can lead to species collapse if they can’t adapt quickly enough.”
The researchers used observations of flowering dates for four categories of plants based on their height: trees, shrubs, grasses and vines. Herbs saw the most pronounced change in their earliest flowering date, at 32 days. This change may be because short-lived plants that have faster turnover rates can evolve adaptively faster, the study said. It’s unclear if they can do this fast enough to keep pace with climate change.
The study also looked at plant location and found that southern sites flowered six days earlier than northern sites; urban areas flowered five days earlier than rural areas; and the lower elevations flowered a day earlier than the higher elevations.
John David, head of horticultural taxonomy for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), told BBC News’ Helen Briggs he had noticed early flowering in RHS gardens.
“The main focus of this study is on native plants and so we don’t yet have a clear picture of the full impact of these changes on garden plants, but we would expect a similar pattern and have seen some indications in our own RHS gardens, such as the flowering times of the apple trees in our orchard at RHS Garden Wisley,” he told BBC News.
The study concludes that “if plants in the UK continue to flower earlier, and if the frequency, intensity and duration of climate extremes increase further, the functioning and productivity of biological, ecological and agricultural systems will be at risk. at an unprecedented risk”.
Last year, Japan saw similar trends in its cherry blossoms. Kyoto recorded the first bloom since the Japan Meteorological Agency began keeping records in 1953, writes Mari Yamaguchi for The Associated Press.