The effect of climate change on phenology
Phenology is the timing of annual cycles of plants and animals e.g. when a plant flowers, goes to seed and insects emerge from hibernation. Our climate is changing due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and intensification of agriculture. Our biodiversity is responding to this environmental change by changes in phenology. However, however the rate of change is still not clearly understood.
We are looking for records for the first occurrence of nine seasonal events. This information can help us answer questions like:
- What effect has recent weather had on wildlife?
- How is climate change affecting timings in nature?
Having annual records of seasonal events allows us to infer if spring temperatures were warmer or colder than previous years and estimate how our biodiversity is responding to our changing climate. The sensitivity of our biodiversity to environmental change makes phenology a useful indicator of climate change.
Climate change projections in Ireland
In Ireland as a result of climate change, we are experiencing changes in;
- Temperatures have increased by 0.7oC in the last 118 years. Majority of that change, 0.4oC has occurred in the last 28 years.
- Precipitation with substantial increases in autumn and winter
- Sea levels have been rising at an average of 3 mm per year from 1980-2010. This rate of sea level rise is projected to be maintained or increase further.
Results from 2022
Overall, the seasonal events were recorded sooner in 2020 than in 2021. Six of the eight events (excluding Marsh Marigold as it was a newly added seasonal event for 2021) being recorded earlier in 2020 than in comparison to 2021.
In 2020, we had a good spring weather wise in comparison resulting seasonal events being first recorded earlier than in 2021 when we had a markedly poorer spring.
|Seasonal event||First record in 2020 – location||First record in 2021 – location|
|Barn Swallow||1 March – Enniskerry, Wicklow||4 March – Liscullane, Kerry|
|Blackthorn flowering||14 February – Goleen, Cork||17 February – Corbally, Limerick|
|Common Cuckoo||16 March – Ardskeagh, Cork||14 April – Ballymachola, Mayo|
|Frog spawn||26 January – Ballybower, South Kerry||28 January – Gurtavalla, Limerick|
|Grey Mining Bee||22 March – Enfield, Kildare||25 February – Rathnure, Wexford|
|Large Red Damselfly||25 April – Crossmolina, Mayo||6 May – Keelcuil, Mayo|
|Marsh-marigold flowering||No record||26 February – Bramblestown, Kilkenny|
|Orange-tip||16 March – Ardskeagh, Cork||2 April – Spahill, Carlow|
|Primrose flowering||23 January – Kilfenora, Clare||2 January – Bramblestown, Kilkenny|
Updates for 2022 survey period
This year, the National Biodiversity Data Centre will provide recorders with a follow up email related to the seasonal event to they have recorded and how each event may be affected by climate change.
Seasonal events that have that interact or have some form of dependence on each other will be in sync with each other as a result of millions of years of evolution e.g. plants flowering and emergence of our pollinators. However, with our climate rapidly changing, these events may move out of sync putting our biodiversity at risk.
Submit records of all the seasonal events in the Farmers’ Wildlife Calendar to learn how the flowering of plants, emergence of our bees, butterflies and dragonflies and the arrival our migrants are being affected by climate change.
Thanks to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
2021 was a successful year for the Farmers’ Wildlife Calendar which saw an increase in the number of records submitted through the recording initiative.
The National Biodiversity Data Centre would like to thank Niall Ryan from Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Minister Pippa Hackett for their support.