Sunbathed Aspen Grow to Show how Sunlight Influences Aspen Leaf Changes in the Autumn Season
Every autumn, leaves of deciduous trees change from green to other colors and eventually drop to the ground. The rate of color change is influenced by a several factors including the amount of sunlight and temperature. As part of an inquiry-based learning activity, University of Wyoming students have been recording leaf color change (% change) and its drop date (%) in Aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) growing in Laramie (WY) using NEON’s (National Ecology Observation Network) Phenology data form. In this study, the data recorded from 2015 through 2018 were analyzed to identify trends in the rate of color change in dry and normal years. Trees that were in an area with a high amount of shade were observed to change leaf color and drop their leaves faster than those in areas that received more sun. This pattern was consistent even in years that experienced winter-like conditions in September. Findings from this multi-year study indicate that future environmental modeling projects must factor in the amount of sunlight received by aspen trees in the growing season into account.