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 user 2006-08-29 at 9:52:00 am Views: 108
  • #16183

    Climate changes shift springtime

    A Europe-wide study has provided “conclusive proof” that the seasons
    are changing, with spring arriving earlier each year, researchers say.

    Scientists from 17 nations examined 125,000 studies involving 561 species.

    Spring was beginning on average six to eight days earlier than it did 30 years ago, the researchers said.

    In regions such as Spain, which saw the greatest increases in temperatures, the season began up to two weeks earlier.

    The findings were based on what was described as the world’s largest
    study of changes in recurring natural events, such as when plants

    The team of researchers also found that the onset of autumn has been delayed by an average of three days over the same period.

    Feeling the heat

    The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, shows
    changes to the continent’s climate were shifting the timing of the
    seasons, the scientists said.

    One of the paper’s lead authors, Tim Sparks from the
    UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), said the findings did not
    go as far as pointing the finger of blame at human-induced climate

    “We can’t tell that from our study but experts have
    already shown that there is a discernable human influence on the
    current climate warming.”

    But Dr Sparks said it did show that there was a direct
    link between rising temperatures and changes to plant and animal

    “We need to look at change over very large areas and we
    need to examine as many species groups as possible because there has
    been some mild criticism that people have cherry-picked the results
    they presented.

    If you have species that are dependent on each other changing at different rates, that could just break down the food web

    Dr Tim Sparks, report’s author

    “We have gone for the most complete coverage possible that we could in
    Europe to try to see if there was still this effect,” he said. “It is
    very conclusive that there is.”

    The team examined 125,000 observational series of 542 plants and 19 animal species in 21 European countries from 1971 to 2000.

    The results showed that 78% of all leafing, flowering and fruiting
    records were happening earlier in the year, while only 3% were
    significantly delayed.

    Dr Sparks said horse chestnut trees, which grow all over the continent, were particularly good indicators.

    “It is a good example because it is easy to identify, and it has
    distinctive phases of leafing, flowering and producing conkers.”

    He hoped the findings would now focus attention on the potential consequences of changes to the behaviour of plants and animals.

    “If you have species that are dependent on each other changing at different rates, that could just break down the food web.

    “For example, caterpillars feed on oak trees, and birds feed on the
    caterpillars. Unless these species remain synchronised, there could be
    problems for any one or more of those elements of the food web.”