How can counting flowers show the effects of climate change?

A detailed close up of Magnolia Mollicomata in flower

Trends in the numbers of flowers blooming show how the climate is changing and is affecting the natural world.

What climate change trends are we seeing?

2015 was globally the warmest year ever. We’ve had 10 of the warmest years ever in the last 12. This year (2016) is likely to be even warmer than 2015. 
 
December in the UK broke all records for warmth. We’ve had a greater frequency of storms in recent years. The extent and frequency of flooding has also increased. 
" The seasons are becoming less distinct and more jumbled. Plants don’t know what season they are in and are ‘fooled’ into thinking spring is on the way. "
- Alex Raeder

How might climate change affect houses and gardens?

Our houses and gardens were created at a time when the climate was changing slowly (which is different to weather, which we all know is highly changeable).We need to plan and adapt for change. 
 
This could mean that we may be able to grow tender species further west and north in the UK than ever before. We must also plan to be as flexible as possible in our garden design and planting. For example:  
  • More drought tolerant species in the south east of the UK  
  • More citrus and sub-tropical species in our gardens 
  • That great British institution, the lawn, maybe under long term thereat from drier summers and wetter winters

In the wider countryside we may see some of our cherished and characteristic species and habitats move north or higher in altitude, or be lost from the UK forever. Some of these maybe less welcome than others as warmer and wetter conditions make it easier for some diseases and pests to spread.

How does counting flowers show climate change? 

The seasons are becoming less distinct and more jumbled. Plants don’t know what season they are in and are ‘fooled’ into thinking spring is on the way. Stimulated in this way, plants begin to flower and grow leaves to make food. Seasons in the UK are normally quite short so understandabley plants and flowers tend to get on and grow as soon as they receive the appropriate signals that it’s time. 
 
What is really strange is that we are seeing wild species that should flower in late spring (like Hawthorn) flowering now. Already this year 600 wildflower species have begun to bloom across the UK, far more than the usual 20 -30 we’d expect.
 
Trends in the numbers of flowers blooming show how the climate is changing and is affecting the natural world
 

What might happen if climate change continues to accelerate? 

It’s a difficult call to make, but generally most experts believe that as overall temperatures will rise, our winters will get warmer and wetter and our summers hotter and drier. Drought and flooding are likely to become big issues.  This has the potential to create major stresses on plants, gardens and the natural world. 
" Will you help the UK face the greatest threat of the 21st Century? "
- Alex Raeder

What can you do to help? 

  1. In your garden plant for the future using trees, shrubs and flowers that are drought tolerant
  2. Conserve water
  3. Create ponds friendly for wildlife
  4. Do what you can to reduce your carbon footprint, including:
  5. Reduce energy consumption
  6. Recycle
  7. Promote a wildlife friendly countryside that is more resilient to change

Facebook

Help us build a picture of which flowers are blooming in the South West by posting a photo of your garden in bloom.

Twitter

Which flowers are blooming in your garden? Add your photos to the hashtag.

Instagram

Add your pics to the Instagram hashtag #flowercount.