When researching climate change, scientists also rely on the participation of interested citizens. For a new project, they are called in to provide data about when plants sprout and open on their doorstep. These results are also important for allergy sufferers. The information can be entered online at the Baysics portal, which was launched at the beginning of the year. “In order to be able to make data about the entire state of Bavaria, comprehensive observations are required,” says project manager Annette Menzel, professor of ecoclimatic science at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Weihenstephan.
She got the idea for the platform Baysics, part of the Bavarian Climate Research Network that collects data on climate change impacts on plants, animals and tree lines in Bavaria. At the same time, citizens must be made aware that changes can actually be felt in their immediate surroundings.
One of the hands-on projects revolves around pollen levels. “Long-term measurements of flowering dates provide information about whether the vegetation period begins or, specifically, the pollen season changes,” says Menzel. “Rising temperatures, for example, affect the start of flowering – and thus also the number of pollen grains.” However, it is not clear whether the duration of the flowering season will also change.
This information is also important for allergy sufferers. It won’t be long for the hazelnut blossom. Due to the low temperatures in the past few weeks, it starts shortly in most places. As it gets milder, the flowers will open more and more in the coming weeks and release pollen. Menzel explains that it can be, for example, that weeds experience a longer pollen season due to warmer weather. Additionally, some plants are known to produce and release more pollen when concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rise and these can also be more aggressive. “Through our project we want to study some of these aspects across the different regions of Bavaria.” The pollen research project is headed by geography professor Susan Juschner Ute of the Catholic University of Eichstatt.
According to the website, it’s not just scientists who benefit from citizen researchers’ reports. Mass registration of allergy-causing plant species “gradually creates a risk map”. This means that those with pollen allergies can quickly search for areas they should avoid. So far, the information has only been collected at a few pollen measurement stations.
The Baysics team also wants to engage schools in order to increase their awareness of the climate change issue. However, cooperation with the Montessori School in Freising had to be canceled for the time being due to the pandemic, says Menzel.
Nature-minded people can participate using their smartphones, apps or computers. You can register on the site www.baysics.de. You can also try yourself. Instructions for this are available under “Teccs”. In the medium term, according to Menzel, platform users should be able to work on questions themselves as “little toys” – such as how plant growth changes at certain temperatures.
The Baysics project is limited to April 2023, but the climate researcher hopes it will continue after that. “Our aim is to obtain new knowledge and develop research. We also want to make scientific work more transparent and accessible to citizens. We have developed our portal for this purpose.”