Plants are blooming a month earlier

Climate change causing earlier springs

Spring is arriving earlier in the UK, with plants flowering a month sooner, according to a new study.

A rise in temperatures is driving the change, with herbaceous plants flowering 32 days early, trees blossoming 14 days early and shrubs blooming 10 days sooner.

The researchers studied 406 types of plants over 435,000 dates between 1753 and 2019, which is the most recent year on record. They discovered that between 1753 and 1986, the average first flowering date was 12 May and from 1987 to 2019, it was 16 April.

The lead researcher, Professor Ulf Büntgen of the University of Cambridge, said: “The results are truly alarming because of the ecological risks associated with earlier flowering times. When plants flower too early, a late frost can kill them – a phenomenon that most gardeners will have experienced at some point.

“But the even bigger risk is ecological mismatch. Plants, insects, birds and other wildlife have co-evolved to a point that they’re synchronised in their development stages. A certain plant flowers, it attracts a particular type of insect, which attracts a particular type of bird, and so on.”

The researchers said that if plants continue to flower earlier each year, then the UK’s biological, ecological and agricultural systems will be at risk.

The data used was provided by the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar, which records observations made by amateur and professional gardeners, scientists, naturalists and professional bodies such as the Royal Meteorological Society.

Anyone in the UK can add their plant and wildlife observations to Nature’s Calendar and Professor Büntgen said this will help scientists to “quantify how climate change is affecting the functioning of various ecosystem components across the UK”.

 

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“The results are truly alarming because of the ecological risks associated with earlier flowering times.” Professor Ulf Büntgen

 

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