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!

Spring leaf-out phenology observations have proven valuable in predicting how arctic plant communities may change in coming decades. Models used to predict changes in plant communities have traditionally taken phenology into account, but have used a single date for leaf-out averaged across all plant species. As participants in Nature’s Notebook know first-hand, the timing of leaf-out varies by species.
Phenology data can inform invasive species management by identifying periods of reproduction and green-up that are critical for mechanical removal or herbicide application. Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare), an aggressive non-native species, is spreading rapidly and introducing fire to the sensitive Sonoran Desert.
The spring of 2012 broke many records across the eastern portion of the U.S. for early warm temperatures. Though we humans may celebrate the early return to warm temperatures following a cold, dark winter, plants and animals may not fare as well. 
Warming temperatures are prompting many trees in temperate regions to put on leaves in the spring earlier than they have in the past. Climate change models predict continued warming of up to several degrees C by 2100. A team of researchers at Princeton University, led by David Medvigy, developed a nuanced model to predict the timing of leaf-out in the future. 
Dedicated volunteers have been tracking the phenology of cloned and common lilacs for decades, and these observations have been invaluable in documenting plant responses to changing spring conditions. In 2012, we launched a campaign to garner more commitment among Nature's Notebook participants to tracking lilacs. 
Spring 2010 was anomalously early in much of the eastern United States, and resulted in lilacs and other species leafing and flowering weeks ahead of schedule. When 2012 began showing signs of another early spring, we launched a campaign across the northeastern quadrant of the United States to capture observations of plant phenology. 
The timing of flowering plants and migrating birds matters. Migrating hummingbirds depend on flowers as a food source, and flowering plants depend on birds for pollination. When the timing of these events is mismatched, as in years with anomalously early springs where the plants flower before the birds arrive, both the plants and the birds can suffer. 
We compare Nature's Notebook data on flowering of 6 species of deciduous trees with eBird (Cornell Lab of Ornithology 2012, ebird.org) data on a long-distance migratory bird, the Tennessee warbler, to demonstrate interannual patterns of phenological synchrony and overlap associated with the early spring of 2012 in the eastern U.S.

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