What does fall look like? When do the leaves change color? And when do they fall? That’s something 18,000 students all over Sweden will look into during the coming weeks. More knowledge about when leaves fade will actually help propel science forward.

“To better understand the transition between summer and winter helps us predict what might happen in a future, warmer world,” Says professor Lars Eklundh at Lund University. Eklundh works at the Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, and he’s one of the researchers that will benefit directly from these observations. Whoever is interested is welcome to contribute to this “civic research,” as it is called. More and more researchers over the world are using this type of approach, for which the use of the Internet is a requirement. The mapping of fall will be done by students who will select one or several trees and monitor them at least once a week. The development of the falling leaves will be followed and graded on a scale of 1 to 5, from summery green to autumn golds and reds.

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“We know too little about the entrance of fall across the country. People are more eager to report signs of spring than signs of fall,” says Kjell Bolmgren at Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet (the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), which is coordinating this mass experiment. The researchers would love to see more people participating and they can do so on naturenskalender.se, where anyone can report their findings. “We have a Linnaean tradition in Sweden to study and know our nature, so we hope many will get on board,” says Bolmgren. The researchers are counting on the Höstförsöket (the Fall Experiment) to give them a basis for how climate changes affect the seasons in different locations of Sweden. In addition, the experiment will provide support for research around satellite images where seasonal changes can be read and contribute to the mapping of genetic variations that may affect the development of the fading leaves.
For more information: www.naturenskalender.se