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How your data are being used

The plant and animal phenology observations that Nature's Notebook participants have been contributing tell some interesting stories! We invite you to read about some of our most recent discoveries from Nature's Notebook data below. Check back often; we update this page frequently!

Grasslands are among the most disturbed ecosystems globally. In the areas that remain, managers must balance practices such as mowing and burning that maintain natural systems while avoiding nesting periods for grassland birds. The authors of this study used information about nest survival from scientific literature as well as climate information and the USA-NPN’s Spring Bloom Index to develop models to predict the expected nest departure timing for 36 grassland bird species. This information can provide more localized information about nesting timing to better time management actions to avoid this critical period.
Ash trees on are the decline, and the main culprit is emerald ash borer (EAB), an invasive pest that has killed millions of ash trees in the United States. Knowing where and when to expect EAB emergence gives managers an advantage in controlling this pest, helping them to know when to take actions to control the pest. In this article, Barker et al. evaluated a model that predicts activity of EAB, taking into account both phenology and locations that have suitable climate for this pest. They used observations of EAB, including those from Nature’s Notebook, to test their model and found that it correctly estimated over 99% of presence records and predicted dates of adult EAB emergence within 7 days. This paper demonstrates how your observations can be used in the realm of invasive species, helping to improve management and ultimately conserve the unique ecosystems that we care about.
Pollen alerts give allergy sufferers the potential to reduce their exposure and the negative health impacts that result. An emerging data source for alerts is observations of flowering phenology, which can be highly correlated with the presence of airborne pollen. The authors of a new study compared data from National Allergy Bureau stations on daily pollen concentrations to flowering and pollen cone data from Nature’s Notebook. They found that the strength of the relationship between open flowers and pollen cones and pollen concentration varied by the type of plant, with the best agreement for Oaks (Quercus) and walnuts (Juglans). More specific data on the timing of open flowers and pollen release, like those that you collect in Nature’s Notebook, could lead to create real-time pollen alerts with local specificity.
The ability to predict spring plant phenology has implications for ecosystem services and forest management. The amount of heat that has accumulated at a given location, called growing degree days, is one method for prediction. The authors compared phenology data collected by the Tree Spotters (a Nature’s Notebook Local Phenology Program) at an urban arboretum, to those collected in a rural forest, Harvard Forest, and found that the urban site actually required fewer GDDs than trees at the rural site, possibly due to other phenological cues such as light and a higher amount of accumulated winter chill than predicted.
A new study focuses on the creation of litter – the patterns by which trees contribute to the rich layer of decomposing material that is the foundation of the forest. A better understanding of litter creation helps fill out our understanding of the carbon cycle. With this work we are learning that your observations of fruit and leaf fall have more potential than we realized.
The authors of a new study used over 4,000 Nature’s Notebook observations of oak (Quercus) trees in the eastern US to explore the relationship between flowering and air pollen. By finding a link between temperature and open flowers, they were able to predict peak in flowering timing at pollen monitoring stations. The peak flowering timing was strongly correlated with the observed peak airborne pollen at the stations. This article is the first to explore how volunteer-collected phenology data contributed to Nature’s Notebook can be used to support better predictions of the timing and severity of allergy season.
Changing climate conditions may affect the timing of leaf-out among trees and forbs in different ways. A research team based at the University of Ottawa evaluated anticipated changes in leaf-out among these two groups of plants using data contributed to Nature’s Notebook from 965 sites across northeastern North America. The team found that understory herbs are advancing leaf-out at a greater rate than trees, especially at higher latitudes. This more rapid advancement in leaf-out could result in a longer growing season and increased carbon uptake for these plants as temperatures increase.
We know plants respond when the days get longer in the spring and shorter in the fall, but what happens when it’s still light after sunset? Using data on dozens of species and hundreds of sites in the Nature’s Notebook dataset, Lin Meng and colleagues found that the presence of artificial light advances breaking leaf buds and delays leaf color change. The ecological impact of artificial light at night has not been well-documented, and it’s a great opportunity to reflect on your local landscape at night and to think about how the plants you observe might be responding.
The authors compared a historical dataset of plant phenology recorded in New York state from 1826-1872 to contemporary observations collected through Nature’s Notebook from 2009-2017. On average, plants flower 10.5 days earlier and leaf out 19 days earlier now than 200 years ago. The authors found impacts of urbanization, greater advancement of flowering timing in earlier season species and greater advancement in trees and shrubs than forbs, and greater advancement in insect-pollinated species. The standardized observations you record in Nature’s Notebook are invaluable for understanding the direction and magnitude of changes in the timing of life cycle events of plants and animals.
The authors of a new study combined plant phenology observations contributed to Nature’s Notebook with two other phenology datasets and data products collected by satellite-borne sensors to estimate the timing of brown down of leaves (senescence) for 93 plant species across the United States and Europe. They then looked at the effects of human population density and temperature on the timing of leaf senescence and growing season length. The authors found that in cold regions, urbanization was associated with later leaf senescence and a longer growing season while in warm regions, urbanization was associated with earlier leaf senescence and a shorter growing season. As urbanization increases and temperatures warm further with climate change, we may see more areas that experience shorter growing season length.  


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