According to the study's lead author, PhD student Karen Robbirt of UEA: "The results of our study are exciting because the flowering response to spring temperature was so strikingly close in the two independent sources of data. This suggests that pressed plant collections may provide valuable additional information for climate-change studies."
"We found that the flowering response to spring temperature has remained constant, despite the accelerated increase in temperatures since the 1970s. This gives us some confidence in our ability to predict the effects of further warming on flowering times."
The study opens up important new uses for the 2.5 billion plant and animal specimens held in natural history collections in museums and herbaria. Some specimens date back to the time of Linnaeus (who devised our system of naming plants and animals) 250 years ago.
Co-author Professor Anthony Davy of UEA says: "There is an enormous wealth of untapped information locked within our museums and herbaria that can contribute to our ability to predict the effects of future climate change on many plant species. Importantly it may well be possible to extend similar principles to museum collections of insects and animals."
Phenology or the timing of natural events is an important means of studying the impact of climate change on plants and animals.
"Recent climate change has undoubtedly affected the timing of development and seasonal events in many groups of organisms. Understanding the effects of recent climate change is a vital step towards predicting the consequences of future change. But only by elucidating the responses of individual species will we be able to predict the potentially disruptive effects of accelerating climate change on species interactions," he says.
Detecting phenological trends in relation to long-term climate change is not straightforward and re
|Contact: Becky Allen|