I’m delighted to say my elder daughter’s PhD project, Track a Tree, has just launched. She is asking for volunteers to become citizen ecologists who will record the progress of spring in woodlands across the UK. She’s looking for people to record the spring phenology, or seasonal timing, of individual woodland trees and the flowering plants that grow beneath them.
By observing UK woodland communities, the aim is to find out how spring timing varies across some of the UK’s most important habitats, and discover how changes in climate could affect UK woods.
On the Track a Tree website – http://www.trackatree.org.uk/ – you can find out more about the project, download the clearly written field guide which tells you which trees and flowers to monitor, register to become a recorder and start making observations. There will also be regular updates on Twitter @TrackATree and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trackatree
After selecting a woodland tree and completing some basic information about its characteristics and location on the website, volunteers should then make regular trips to the same tree, ideally weekly, from before it buds, through to leafing, to record its development and that of key plants, such as bluebells, beneath its canopy.
The Track a Tree study, which will take place over this spring and next, should provide a clearer picture of how climate change is impacting on seasonal developments in key woodland trees and plants in parts of the UK. Shifts in the order of spring events may lead to some species doing better at the expense of others. The findings will help predict how future change in climate could impact on trees and flowers, and inform the management and conservation of ancient woodlands.
Christine Tansey, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Biological Sciences and the Woodland Trust, who is leading the study, said: “Climate change is already impacting on woodland, with spring plants emerging sooner than they used to. It is important that we learn all we can about how climate change could further impact on this natural heritage. Our study asks the public to become citizen scientists, tracking seasonal changes in woodlands”