Track a Tree, Nature’s Calendar sister project, is about to start the 2016 recording season, and we’re looking for more people to get involved.
Track a Tree recorders help monitor the spring phenology, or seasonal timing, of woodland trees and the flowering plants that grow beneath them. Now is the time of year when we ask new and existing volunteers to head out into the woods and look for signs of spring.
What is Track a Tree?
Track a Tree differs from Nature’s Calendar as we focus on woodland phenology, looking at the timing of individual trees and the relationship between canopy tree leafing and flowering of other woodland plants.
As the Nature’s Calendar PhD researcher who set up the project, I'm working with your records to find out how individual trees behave across the UK, and how they change from year to year. I am also looking at whether the relationship between trees and ground flora species is the same everywhere in the UK. Insights from Track a Tree will help us understand how woodland phenology might respond to changing temperatures as a result of climate change.
Observations from Track a Tree volunteers are added to our maps of spring in the woods on the website, where you can look over the results for 2013-2015. Early Track a Tree records show that flowering of lesser celandine, wood anemone and bluebell is consistently earlier than the leafing of oak species across the UK, even where climate conditions are different.
With more of your observations we can test whether these flowering plants will be able to track changes to tree phenology and maintain shading relationships in woodland as climate changes.
How to get involved in Track a Tree
If you’re new to Track a Tree and interested in taking part, we ask our recorders to monitor their chosen tree on a weekly basis, so the project would especially suit anyone who regularly visits their local woodland.
Once you register on our website there are three stages to recording for Track a Tree:
Select a tree (or trees) to track during February or early March, and collect some site information
Revisit your tree(s) weekly throughout the spring, until they reach leafing. On each visit record the tree phenology and the flowering of a few key woodland species
The 2016 season will be an interesting one for Track a Tree, now that the project has been running for a couple of years we are getting some great records from the same trees over several springs. This means we can start to see how much the timing of individual trees can vary over the years. This year we are really interested in monitoring how woodland trees and flowering plants behave after the warm, wet winter.
Now is the time to head out into the woods and look for signs of spring
I am currently busy analysing the records Track a Tree volunteers have collected so far and I will be reporting the findings on the Track a Tree blog. As well as registering and downloading our recording materials on the Track a Tree website, you can find more blogs from some of our brilliant recorders, and read their stories of recording spring in the woods.
We’d love to see you recording spring in the woods this year, so do visit the Track a Tree website to find out more. If you’ve taken part before, please keep tracking your trees!