Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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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!

The earlier springs seen in recent decades may become a permanent change. Researchers at UW - Madison predict that by the end of this century, spring will appear approximately three weeks earlier across the continental U.S. False springs are also likely to increase in the Great Plains and portions of the Midwest. 
Researchers from the California Phenology Project compared observations of leaf budburst, flowering, fruiting and leaf drop with climate variables such as temperature and rainfall. The authors found that in all four species, at least one phenophase responded to higher winter low temperatures with delayed onset. Generally, precipitation strongly influenced leaf phenology, while both precipitation and temperature were important for flower and fruit phenology.
Using data from phenology observation programs, including Nature’s Notebook, the authors found that leaf unfolding is triggered more by daytime temperatures than by nighttime temperatures. This knowledge can lead to better predictions of when leaf-out might occur and improve vegetation models to estimate how phenology will change over different parts of the globe.   
For many plants, it appears that the amount of heat needed to begin leaf growth in spring is related to temperatures in the preceding winter. Under increasing temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, many temperate woody plants may no longer be exposed to the necessary cold temperatures in winter to meet their chilling requirement, leading to delays in leaf-out.
Plants rely on their roots for delivery of water and nutrients, not to mention for the structure that anchors them to the earth. Just as new leaves or needles grow in the springtime, roots also have a period of growth, or production. To better understand the relationship between leaf and root production, the authors of this study evaluated patterns in the timing of leaf and root phenology in deciduous and coniferous trees. 
Learn what your 2014 observations reveal, and the ways scientists are using your observations. We cover results from the 2014 Campaigns, as well as a range of other results from observers across the country. 
There has thus far been no clear agreement on whether autumn phenology events such as leaf color are more influenced by day length or temperature in temperate systems. The authors found that both have an influence.
Temperature and daylight length strongly influence the range of ragweed, an invasive weed. Ragweed can only reproduce in areas where its seeds can mature before the winter frost. This means that as the climate warms, ragweed will be able to grow in more places.  
Volunteers have been tracking cloned plants for over 50 years, and these observations have been invaluable for documenting how plants are responding to a variable and changing climate. However, lilacs don't grow very well in the southernmost parts of the US. A dogwood was recently cloned for distribution in southeastern states to address part of this data gap, and Nature's Notebook participants began submitting observations in 2013.
Early results are coming in from the PopClock project, a collaborative effort with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies.

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