Thursday, 13 March 2014

Feel like tracking a tree?

Hackfall Wood
Image: K. Walker
On this Blog, you won't often see details of new projects launched by botanists who are not BSBI members. That's because our botanists are full of brilliant ideas and we work, often with partners, to help them develop the best of those ideas into great projects, like SPLASH. But sometimes we are told about other initiatives which meet BSBI's aims - to promote the study, understanding and enjoyment of wild plants in Britain and Ireland - and we are also happy to promote such initiatives to our members and to anyone else who will listen! 


Monitoring ground flora at Launde Wood, VC55
Image: E. Jones
So, I was interested to hear from Dr Albert Phillimore, NERC Advanced Fellow based at the University of Edinburgh's Institute of Evolutionary Biology, about a new citizen ecology project called 'Track a Tree', developed by Christine Tansey, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, supported by the Woodland Trust and funded by NERC. 

Christine Tansey 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".


VC55 recorders, Launde Wood, 2013
Image: E. Jones 
Albert said "We want to understand how the order of spring events (flowering of understorey and leafing of trees) varies across the UK in order to predict how different species might respond in the future. For instance, warmer winters in the future might see oak come into leaf before silver birch, and this might be enough to advantage more southerly adapted oaks at the expense of birch. We're asking recorders to revisit a single tree throughout the spring and monitor both its phenology and the phenology of the species that comprise the under storey". 

On the Track a Tree website, you can find out more about the projectregister to become a recorder and start making observations. Do also check out Track a Tree's sister project, Nature’s Calendar, the Woodland Trust’s recording scheme for seasonal observations. 

Sorry but Launde is one of our favourite VC55 woodlands!
Image: E. Jones
Albert also said "We think this scheme is unique in the UK given it's focus on interacting species". Hmm, arguably SPLASH does something similar, although it focuses on the mosses, lichens and ground flora associated with Ash trees, and also it's maybe aimed at slightly more experienced recorders. 

But between the two projects, there are lots of excuses for you to get out into the woods this spring. By recording what's out there, you are contributing to science and can file your outing under 'Monitoring phenology' rather than 'Hanging out with Trees (again)'. This may be more acceptable to your conscience and/or your loved ones :-)