Pieter De Frenne is a big cycling fan who likes to watch coverage of the Tour of Flanders, a one-day bicycle race held every spring in Belgium. He is also the consummate scientist. So it’s not surprising that he noticed startling changes in the trees and shrubs framing many of the cobbled streets that have been part of the course for years. The landscape had morphed from totally bare to lush with greenery.
“There is a remarkable difference visible in video images,” he said. “If you watch old cycling videos, the trees are often still bare, with no leaves whatsoever, whereas in recent editions, the trees are largely green with leaves or with flowers.”
Decades of footage showed that climate change had altered the trees, shrubs and other plants along the course. It also demonstrated the immense value of video material from annual sporting events, which could provide a rich trove of data about the impact of our changing climate. “It can be an invaluable, still underexploited resource for climate change research and other types of biological research,” De Frenne said.