LESS LIGHT, MORE COLOUR

Autumn is a time of transition. Animals and plants are preparing for the winter, some of them kept rather busy ensuring their survival. Four examples of what’s going on out there right now.

A riot of colour in the woods
Red, orange and yellow, ochre, brown, almost black and all the shades in between – these are the colours the leaves of trees take on in the autumn. The woods are lit up at the moment. The autumnal blaze of colours is due to the fact that one colour, which normally covers up the others, has left the leaves and moved into the trunk: green. The tree normally needs green for photosynthesis, the process of creating energy from light and carbon. This is not worthwhile in the dark of the winter, so the tree draws the chlorophyll – the green pigment – out of the leaves and stores it in the branches, trunk and roots. As soon as it starts to warm up again in the spring, the chlorophyll is brought back in the new leaves.

Orderly retreat
In the coming weeks, one of the most popular Alpine animals also bids farewell: the marmot. It withdraws with its extended family into its burrow, which lies far below the earth. Throughout the summer the animals have built up their fat reserves. They have to make do with this for six or seven months now, as there are no supplies here and they can’t really go out of the burrow. Their heartrate and entire metabolism is scaled down to the absolute minimum. They just about make it through the winter alive.

Loud noises
It can get pretty wild at times in an autumnal wood: there’s bellowing, roaring, creaking, grunting, and it’s all, as so often in nature, about winning a mate. The rut of the stags is also part of autumn. The male animals don’t just let out indescribably archaic noises, they also fight with their antlers, wallow in mud or compete in weeing. The prize is important, after all: the winner gets the female deer – all of the ones in his territory.

Signs of disgruntlement
With the autumn come ever-shorter days and the weather often turns gloomy – although this year, of course, is the exception which proves the rule. For many people, this has a bad effect on their mood. They get tired more quickly in autumn, feel listless and would really rather not get out of bed at all. But that’s exactly what they should do: get up and get out. Lack of light is one of the reasons, after all, why our bodies release less happiness hormones in the autumn. Moving around outside can help to overcome occasional bad patches.