By reporting when certain plants bloom and leaf out in spring, Albertans contribute vital information for climate change studies. The speed of spring plant development is controlled mainly by temperature. Warming winter and spring temperatures mean earlier appearances of flowers. This study of biological timing is called phenology, “the science of appearances”.
There is evidence that spring is arriving earlier in many places in the west.
“The alarm clock that all the plants and animals are listening to is running too fast” says Stanford University biologist Terry Root.
Observe plants in your area – plant watching is easy!
- Just register for the program,
- Select one or more plants,
- Watch the plant in spring,
- Report the date when the first flower buds open.
Timing is everything!
Reported bloom dates help in:
- understanding how vegetation is responding to climate change, to help predict future shifts in where plants occur
- predicting changes in timing of air-born pollen. There is evidence of earlier and stronger allergy seasons.
- understanding changes in partnerships with pollinators, and plant eaters such as insects, deer and elk
- predicting timing of forest fires
- ground truthing for satellite images
- predicting the best time to treat insect pests in crops (most efficient, lowest cost and environmental impact)
- predicting when to photograph wildflowers or go fly-fishing!
V. Demuth: “With the changes in climate, I think it’s important to help scientists document what’s happening in the local plant communities. It’s a small contribution plus it’s easy and enjoyable. It helps to keep me attuned to the bio-community and I feel connected to a virtual world of other plant observers. Also, the Plantwatch website and information we receive back from the researchers is fascinating. I’m always learning something new.
S. Bargholz: “I just love watching spring come and throw everything into gear!”