Flowers appear on trees and shrubs in the UK earlier and earlier in the year. For many, this is seen as a welcome promise of the beginning of spring – but researchers are now warning of dangerous chain reactions that could affect birds, insects and the entire ecosystem.
According to a study led by the University of Cambridge, climate change will cause plants in the UK to bloom an average of a month earlier than ever before.
Researchers have come to the conclusion that 406 plant species have been in flowering since 1753 with the help of more than 400,000 observations. The first flowering average was May 12 until 1986 – but that was changed to April 16.
The same period coincides with global warming caused by human activity, the researchers say. On a regular basis, according to the study.
Professor Ulf Bundgen, who led the researchers, told The Guardian that the results were “extremely dangerous” due to environmental risks associated with earlier flowering periods.
When the plants bloom early, late frost will kill them, a phenomenon most gardeners have experienced at some point.
Fruit trees are particularly prone to late frosts, which can have severe consequences for farmers who lose the entire harvest.
Risk of imbalance
Researchers also warn of the dangers of ecosystems as plants, insects, birds and other wildlife synchronize their growth. If one part of the system suddenly grows faster than the others, according to Puntgen, the species will collapse if they do not have time to adapt quickly.
British study points to long-term trends – but there are many separate reports of early flowering from other parts of the world. For example, in March last year, early cherry blossoms were recorded in Japan for 1,200 years, and in 2019, sunflowers bloomed earlier than usual due to the heat wave in the United States.
Pinology describes events that recur annually in nature. This applies to living phenomena such as plants and animals, but also to inanimate phenomena such as snow and ice.
Pinology describes the time of year or actually the date on which an event occurs, for example when the first flowers or leaves bloom in spring.
With the help of phinological observations, it is possible to follow how the climate is changing. One can appreciate how the climate has changed in historical times and follow today’s developments.
In Japan, there may be a very long series of measurements of phinological observations. The measuring series comes from the flowers of the cherry trees in the spring and dates back to the ninth century. According to the series, early blooms occurred in 2021, a day earlier than the previous record of 1409.
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