This Rutishauser and colleagues have been tracking the blooming of flowers in Switzerland (can you think of a more delightful job as a scientist?). In a paper just published in GRL, they concluded that 2007 was a remarkable spring:
Anomalously high temperatures led to a very early onset of plant phenological spring phases, including 98 record early observations out of a possible total of 302 (32%) for selected phases in Switzerland.
To me, one of the most revealing conversations I’ve had with a scientist was a discussion about the variables that govern the timing of plants leafing out, and flowering, and dropping their leaves. We were walking in the woods, and he explained how relatively poorly studied the question of timing is. It’s the sort of data that, comprehensively collected, would be incredibly useful for climate change studies. But the comprehensive collection of such “phenology” data is still in its infancy.
For more on the importance of this issue and the efforts to collect better data: US National Phenology Network.
(Thanks to Garrulus for the picture.)
I’ve been thinking about blogging about the little plant/climate observations that I can make from home. I’m not a biologist, and I’m still learning to identify the native plants that live near my house, but I’ve got a camera. (And I think it would be a great project to do with a small child – wander around the hill and look for flowering bushes and take pictures of them.)
It would be natural history, not science, but I think it would be interesting to do over many years.
You should definitely do that!
I’ve thought myself that phenology blogging could be a useful thing. In fact, you’ll note that I’ve added a “phenology” blog post category. I’m terrible at rigorous data keeping over time (I’d be a terrible scientist.) but I can use the blog to make a note of the first hummingbird, etc., then go back in later years and compare. I Google my own sunflower, sandhill crane and iris posts to see what bloomed when. It’s not rigorous, but it is fun.