Artificial Lighting is Making Spring Bloom Early in the UK

By Gerald Lynch on at

In the depths of a British winter the results of this latest study may be difficult to believe, but researchers have found that light pollution across the UK is encouraging the spring season to kick off early.

Using 13 years worth of data from citizen scientists across the UK, the Woodland Trust asked intrepid ecologists to record the first times each year that they saw oak, sycamore, ash and beech trees leaf. The results of the Nature's Calendar initiative (now published in the journal Proceedings of Royal Society B) show that budburst in trees now happens as early as 7.5 days ahead of expected schedule in areas where artificial night light is at its most strong.

The change in nature's timetable will likely have a knock-on effect to other species and animals, too.

“Analysis of Nature’s Calendar data suggests that increased urbanisation is continuing to put pressure on the natural world, in ways that we could not have foreseen," said Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Woodland Trust citizen science manager.

“As the seasons become less and less predictable, our native wildlife may struggle to keep up with fluctuations that affect habitats and food sources. Hopefully this research will lead to new thinking on how to tackle such issues, and will help influence future development decisions.”

Leading on from the report, its authors are now hoping to investigate the impact of differing wavelengths in light, and the ways that different types of light sources may have a greater or lesser effect on the coming of the blossoms. [Proceedings of Royal Society B]

Image Credit: The First Spring Gentle Leaves from Shutterstock