The railway land reserve now has a real autumn feel to it as the flora and fauna prepare for winter. The most dramatic change can be seen in the woodland as the leaves change from green to gold and red and a carpet of leaves is building up on the woodland floor.
The main reason trees shed their leave is to conserve water and energy. Trees can sense the changes in daylight and temperature and this triggers deciduous trees to prepare for the harsh winter weather to come. Before the leaves are shed the tree absorbs as many valuable nutrients as possible from the leaves which are stored in the roots for later use.
This includes Chlorophyll, the pigment that gives many leaves their green colour and which plants also use to make food through photosynthesis. As the chlorophyll is broken down, the leaves turn various shades of red, gold or brown adding the familiar colours of autumn to the landscape. The falling leaves will provide a protective coverage for the tree seeds that will have already been shed. The carpet of leaves will also provide shelter for invertebrates and insect larvae during the winter months Specialized cells cut the leaves off from the branch and they fall to the ground. When the leaves have been shed a protective layer of cells grows over the exposed area.