The Woodland Trust is urging people to visit their nearest wood and help scientists track the arrival of autumn. The charity has been assessing seasonal change and its effect on trees and plants for 12 years, with public records of autumnal indicators this year being universally low compared to the same date last year, indicating autumn could be later arriving in 2012.
So far there have been 81% fewer records of ripe bramble, 96% fewer records of oak trees’ first tint and only one record of a fieldfare arriving compared to a dozen at the same date in 2011.
According to data recorded by the Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project the benchmark date for the UK’s most symbolic tree – the oak – to show the first signs of autumn colour is September 25th, with full tinting appearing by October 30th. Autumn colour dates vary considerably from year to year as they are affected by temperatures and rainfall; both of these factors also determine the intensity of autumn colour. However autumn as a whole is getting later as warmer temperatures mean that the trees continue to grow for longer.
The charity’s VisitWoods.org.uk website contains details of over 11,000 publicly accessible woods, which people are being encouraged to visit and observe the changes taking place. Without these public observations the Trust will not be able to assess the effects of the changing climate on our native trees. In autumn 2011 over 25,000 observations were recorded by people across the UK.
Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Nature’s Calendar Project Manager, said: “Autumn is the best time of year to get outdoors and visit one of our many beautiful native woods. You can also do your bit to help us learn when and where autumn is arriving, the information you provide is absolutely crucial to us understanding how flora and fauna is adapting to the changing environment. We are particularly keen to receive more records from the public in autumn too.
“Recommendations made by the Independent Panel on Forestry in its final report, include the call for an action plan to deliver the Natural Environment White Paper’s2 proposals on reconnecting people and nature. With projects such as Nature’s Calendar and VisitWoods the charity is leading the way in inspiring the public on the importance of our native woods and we urge Government to play its part.”
The creation of the VisitWoods website has been made possible by funding of £1.2 million from Natural England’s Access to Nature scheme, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, with further support coming from Yell and DoubleTree by Hilton. To find your nearest wood go to VisitWoods.org.uk/autumn.