How do pictures by nature lovers help scientists?

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According to scientists from Italy, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovenia, Ukraine and Poland, photos posted on social media by nature lovers can include valuable information about the impact of climate change on flowering.

They checked if photos made by nature lovers, collected in the iNaturalist social network database, have a significant impact on the collection and use of scientific data.

What is interesting, such studies regarding flowering phenology have been conducted for over 200 years.


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The researchers analysed the wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) because it is one of the most widely distributed and common forest species in Europe.

“The wood anemone is a common species that most people can correctly identify, and its photos allow us to verify the species designation.”

said the leader of the project, Ph.D. Radosław Puchałka from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń.

Pictures posted on social media by volunteers and nature lovers, along with the location, date of observation and photographic documentation, make it possible to collect a large amount of data on the times of phenological phases and their variability in time and in space.

In turn, the scientists could analyse the dependencies between dates of flowering and meteorological conditions. As a result, they created climate forecasts for much larger areas of the Earth.

“Such research will enable a better understanding of the impact of climate change on inter-species integration.”

said the co-author of the project, Ph.D. Marcin K. Dyderski from the Institute of Dendrology of the Polish Academy of Sciences,

If you are interested in the results of the study, check the Agricultural and Forest Meteorology journal.

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