Uncle Sam wants your observations of flowering and fruiting American plants. A new national ‘citizen science’ program is starting up in the US that asks volunteers to send in data on the seasonal cycles, or phenology, of local plants – information that researchers can use to track shifts caused by climate change and other factors. Animal-lovers can start contributing data next year. Running the effort is the USA-National Phenology Network, a consortium of universities, nonprofits, and government agencies – notably the US Geological Survey, who cover the new program on their latest podcast.
Says the press release:
Among other uses, data collected by USA–NPN will help resource managers predict wildfires and pollen production, detect and control invasive species, monitor droughts, and assess the vulnerability of various plant and animal species to climate change.
If they round up enough recruits, they may get striking results. An eye-opening recent study found that more than half of North American bird species are already shifting northward to cooler climes – according to amateur Christmas Bird Counts compiled by the Audobon Society over four decades. One paper out last year suggests even a lone civilian can make a difference: a look back at Henry David Thoreau’s nineteenth-century phenological jottings showed that climate change also appears to be hitting wildflowers near Walden Pond.
Image: Library of Congress, via Wikipedia