Wednesday 31 March 2021

Phenomenal Phenology II


Back in 2014, I published what turned out to be a very popular blog post called PhenomenalPhenology. In that post, I made what would appear to be a fantastic claim to justify the title:

I say phenomenal, because on the one hand it is terrifically simple and you need no scientific training whatsoever to be a phenologist, and on the other hand your contribution could help to save thousands, if not millions, of lives in the future.”

I stand by that claim, and in the light of that, I think the subject is well worth revisiting. So, take a walk with me around Cogra Moss and we'll have a recap and an update.

Periwinkle (Vinca sp.)

First of all, Phenology is the science of recording when things happen in the natural world. Take these Periwinkles, for example, by the side of the footpath. This is the first time that we've seen them in flower this year so we'll take a note of where and when. It's very simple, that's all there is to it. Not just flowering times of plants, but you can record when the first buds appear on trees and when things start to go to seed as well.

But what's the point? I hear you ask. To which, the answer is: that if you keep annual records then, over a period of time you can build up a picture of how the natural world is changing over time – and that is a powerful predictor of climate change. As I've only recently moved to the area, I haven't had a chance to build a picture yet, but during the 14 years that I spent in Crete, I tracked rain, flowers, birds and insects. On its own it looks pretty haphazard and random, but when combined with other people's observations around the world, things start to come into focus.

We all know that the climate is changing (and squabbling over whether that change is natural, man made, or a bit of both is pretty pointless now). We will have to adapt to it, as we have done in the past. What is different now is the scale of the problem, and the speed at which it is happening. I clipped the picture above from (I'm sure they won't mind) and there you will find the whole chilling story.

We can all do our bit towards providing the vital information that will continue to be needed over the coming years. For where flowers, insects and birds lead, we humans will surely follow. A list of citizen science projects is given on the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology's web page. Outside of the UK, simply type 'Phenology projects' into your search engine. So, whether your interest is in botany, ornithology, entomology or you just want to help the world cope with a changing future, this is a simple way to make a big difference.

All the best,



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1 comment:

  1. I used to do that: I kept a calendar that I marked every time I saw a change (new flowers, falling leaves, critters). Now the blog works the same way, except that it doesn't seem so accessible as my old paper calendars.


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