Phenology is nature’s calendar—when cherry trees bloom, when a robin builds its nest and when leaves turn color in the fall.
Phenology is a key component of life on earth. Many birds time their nesting so that eggs hatch when insects are available to feed nestlings. In turn, insect emergence is often synchronized with leafing out in their host plants. For many people, allergy season starts when particular flowers bloom—earlier flowering means earlier allergies. Farmers and gardeners need to know when to plant to avoid frosts, and they need to know the schedule of plant and insect development to decide when to apply fertilizers and pesticides. Many interactions in nature depend on timing. In fact, phenology affects nearly all aspects of the environment, including the abundance, distribution, and diversity of organisms, ecosystem services, food webs, and the global cycles of water and carbon.
Changes in phenological events like flowering and bird migrations are among the most sensitive biological responses to climate change. Across the world, many spring events are occurring earlier—and fall events are happening later—than they did in the past. However, not all species and regions are changing at the same rate, leading to mismatches. How plants and animals respond to climate can help us predict whether their populations will grow or shrink – making phenology a “leading indicator” of climate change impacts.
Phenology plays an important role in human culture, as well. Festivals around the world celebrate annual phenological events from whale migrations to cherry blossoms.
I've been keeping phenological records on my farm for many years and have used a circular calendar to hand write all that data into. Some of my observations include; plant observations such as - first bloom to last blossem... harvest dates... animal and insect observations such as-first pipevine swallowtail butterfly or hawk fledgling takes flight... weather and so on...
We know a lot about phenology, but there is still much to learn. You can help advance the field by:
Collecting data for Nature’s Notebook in your yard, a nearby park or as part of a field study.
Organizing a phenology effort locally for data collection, research and/or education.
Participating in one of our Research Communities or attending a phenology-related meeting.
It is really important that our community help in this research....because as our Earth changes due to shifts in our climate, it is them natural calendars that will be the signals that show local variations.....and combined will show regional change.
The time of the citizen scientist is now! Get involved