As real as climate change is, it is difficult for common people like us to see the real-time effects it has on the environment around us. One way of understanding these changes is by observing the pattern of changes in the organisms around us – and one way of doing this is by observing seasonal changes in the trees around us. Trees often shed leaves, grow flowers, bear fruit and go through many other changes throughout the course of a year. These seasonal behaviours form a basis for studying the impact of climate change on trees and all other organisms and ecosystems that depend on trees.
Because of India's varied geography and climate, tropical trees are diverse. Due to this diversity, it is challenging to understand how different tree species respond to climate change across the nation. Citizen scientists play an important role in assisting in keeping track of the trees in their local communities across the nation. SeasonWatch, an India-wide citizen science project is collating this information to understand the impact of climate change in India.
SeasonWatch organises quarterly tree festival events as a way of reaching out and inspiring citizen scientists to contribute observations on the trees around them. This month, the August Tree Festival began on August 15 and will continue until the end of the month.
To register, sign up on their android app/website and follow the guidelines to upload pictures of the trees you observe. The festival has 2 challenges - to observe more than 200 trees and as many Ficus trees as possible during the 17 days of the festival. One school and one individual will be declared the winners of each challenge based on a lucky draw of all participants who finish the challenges.
The previous festival - April Tree Festival - attracted participants from all over the country. Nature Conservation Society Nashik (NCSN), a collaborator of SeasonWatch have been participating in these Tree festivals and also started a year-long project, beginning this year, to document the seasonal tree patterns of 32 species of Maharashtra's first Conservation Reserve - Borgad. “Through these festivals, we hope to make treewatching as mainstream as birdwatching,” says Sayee Girdhari, the SeasonWatch project coordinator.
As the climate changes more and more rapidly, it is important to keep in touch and understand the importance of the plants and trees around us - actively making them part of our ecosystems. The more awareness there is about climate change, the greater will be the impact of any interventions.