Autumnal Woodlands: Nature in Focus
The nights are drawing in, the temperatures are dropping. You could be forgiven for feeling a little glum at this time of year. However, the one saving grace across the British Isles is that our beautiful woodlands really come into their own at the arrival of autumn.
I’m sure that those who paid attention during their Biology or Geography lessons will be fully aware that Autumn arrives due to the tilt in the Earth’s axis. This tilt takes the Northern hemisphere ever-so-slightly further away from the sun, resulting in a reduction in the power of the sun’s rays and, with this, colder weather.
This phenomenon in itself, though, is no reason for a tree’s leaves to change colour to the palette of burnt oranges, paisley yellows and earthy browns that we see in autumnal woodlands at this time of year. The changing colours of the trees is actually caused by an absence of chlorophyll – the pigment which gives trees their green colour. Chlorophyll is required for photosynthesis and, as the weather turns darker and colder in the winter months, trees can no longer produce the pigment so effectively. The reduction of green chlorophyll reveals colours that were actually always present in the leaves – we just couldn’t see them because we were blinded by the green.
Towards the end of autumn, and as winter approaches, trees then shed their leaves. Although it may seem somewhat sad for the trees to lose their leaves (especially when you consider all the hard work they put in during the spring to produce them in the first place…), rest assured that there are many benefits to this annual jettisoning. The dead leaves decompose and decay on the autumnal woodland floor, providing much needed sustenance for creepy crawlies and fungi alike. Not only this, but during decomposition valuable nutrients are put back into the soil; many of these nutrients ultimately make their way back to the tree. Ah, the circle of life …
The best way to view Britain’s stunning autumnal woodlands is from a cosy log cabin (click to view) … with a mug of hot chocolate … or maybe even something stronger.