Plants take their cues on when to leaf, flower, and bear fruit from environmental conditions such as temperature. The departure from “normal” environmental conditions caused by global climate change can alter the timing of these important events. The study of the timing of these events is called 'phenology'.
The reaction of different species to a changing climate may be highly variable, with some plants and animals being more affected than others. A migratory species may be influenced by conditions in more than one country; warming temperatures in spring may cause it to return to its summer breeding areas where, due to the local impacts of climate change, the food it relies upon may not be available.
Occurrences like this are termed mismatched, when events that used to happen simultaneously are now out of synch. The simple food web shown below highlights some of the relationships between our Community Science study species that could be thrown out of synch by climate change.
Examples of mismatched phenology include lack of food for animals at crucial life stages such as breeding and waking after hibernation, or an absence of pollinators during the flowering period of plants.
To help us understand the effect of changing climate on the growth and life history stages of plants in the Peak District and South Pennines, we need your help to map when and where key seasonal events occur - in four target plant species: Rowan, bilberry, heather and crowberry.
By doing this over many years, we will be able to monitor any annual changes in plant phenology, to see which plant species are especially susceptible to phenological changes, and see if habitat factors offset the effect of changing climate.
Illustration (c) Chris Shields