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Nature enthusiasts help predict the impact of climate change on flowering plants

Nature enthusiasts help predict the impact of climate change on flowering plants

Polish researchers and colleagues from other countries have found that photos of nature lovers collected on social media provide scientists with valuable information about the impact of climate change on flowering.

The researchers examined whether photos of nature lovers collected on the social networking site iNaturalist had a significant impact on the collection and use of scientific data.

The subject of the research was the game guard anemone (Anemone nemorosa).

“Wood anemone is a widespread species that most people can correctly identify with, and the photos allow verification of species identification. It has also been eagerly photographed as one of the fastest flowering forest plants, thanks to the many photos of it from different parts of Europe found on the web. Woody anemones have similar ecological requirements to many other species associated with deciduous forests, so they can serve as a model” – says project leader Dr. Radoslav Buchka from Nicolas Copernicus University in Torun in an interview with PAP. His team included scientists from Italy, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia and Ukraine.

The results of the study were published in “Agriculture and Forest Meteorology”.

Species observations posted on social media by volunteers and nature lovers, along with location, observational history and photographic documentation, allow the collection of a large amount of data on the histories of phenological stages and their diversity in time and space.

On the other hand, the availability of more accurate daily meteorological measurements and climate maps makes it possible to search for relationships between, for example, flowering dates and weather conditions. This makes it possible to create climate forecasts for much larger areas of the Earth.

“Such research will allow for a better understanding of the impact of climate change on the integration of species,” said Dr. Marcin K.

Based on the images published on the iNaturalist website, scientists were able to determine that the average beginning of the flowering of wood anemones in Europe now is 24-41. day of the year. Scientists predict that flowering will begin 19-34 days earlier in future climatic conditions in 2040-2060 and 2060-2080. The largest shift in the beginning and end of flowering is expected in Eastern Europe, and the smallest in the British Isles and Scandinavia.

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According to the results of the study, the average annual temperature and annual rainfall were the two factors that had the strongest influence on the beginning and end of woody anemone flowering. However, the end of flowering was strongly determined by the minimum temperatures in March and May. Expected changes in flowering will speed it up by about one month.

“As a result of this change, a potential problem may be the modification of the evolution cycles of pollination of insects and herbivores and the development cycle of anemones, since both depend on the climate” – said Dersky also the reaction of the animals.

“You need to quantify the impact of climate change not only on the occurrence of the species itself, but also on how it functions under changing conditions,” Dersky said.

Research aimed at elucidating the seasonal variation, sequence and simultaneity of flowering stages and their dependence on environmental factors has been carried out for more than two hundred years.

Due to the time and availability of researchers, they are usually limited to a few growing seasons and a small number of sites. Although phenological cameras and satellite imagery allow an increase in the spatio-temporal range of observations, they also have their limitations. Cameras are expensive and the resolution of satellite images does not allow to determine the flowering stages of plants.

In their daily work, scientists also use the leaves of herbs, but the cost of their maintenance is very high and there are few of them – which makes them difficult to access.

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PAP – Science in Poland, Urszula Kaczorowska

Oka / agt

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