News & Publications

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Understory herbs are quicker to advance leaf-out than overstory trees

Thu, Nov 10, 2022

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.

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It’s not just climate warming – artificial light is shifting phenology

Mon, Oct 24, 2022

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.

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30 million phenology records collected by Nature's Notebook observers

Tue, Aug 09, 2022

This week, we reached a significant new milestone - thirty million phenology records submitted to the National Phenology Database! The 30 millionth record was collected via Nature’s Notebook, the USA-NPN’s plant and animal phenology data collection platform, by Nika Gonzaga, a freshman in Desert View High School's Honors Biology Program in Tucson, Arizona. Nika observed young leaves on a desert willow tree. Nika said "as a freshman, this is my first time ever gathering research like this. It was enjoyable and a very simple task. I hope to do more research on other plants." 

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Citizen science data spanning two centuries illuminate changes in plant phenology

Fri, Jul 22, 2022

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.

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Flowering timing advancing in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Thu, May 19, 2022

A Wyoming-based research team recently digitized hand-written records of first flowering date collected in Grand Tetons National Park in the 1970s and 80s and collected observations from the same species in the same locations in recent years. Since the 1970s, flowering has advanced in many of the species sampled. Differential changes in the timing of flowering has the potential to affect pollinators and other important animals in the region.

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It's the new (climate) normal!

Sun, Mar 20, 2022

Climate normals are 30-year averages of weather data that provide a baseline to compare current weather. NOAA recently updated this average to the most recent 3 decades - what does this mean for our maps of spring?

Normals are long-term average climate products - they exist so we can compare today's weather to the long term average - for example, to find out if this January is colder than "normal." Since temperatures have been rising decade by decade, the period of comparison matters in showing the difference between current conditions and “normal.”

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Urbanization causes later leaf fall in plants in cold regions, but not warm ones

Tue, Jan 25, 2022

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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In Memory of Marjorie Helen Schwartz (1928-2021), faithful phenology observer

Wed, Jan 19, 2022

The USA National Phenology Network laments the passing of Marjorie Helen Schwartz, a long-time lilac observer and mother of USA-NPN co-founder Mark D. Schwartz. Marjorie died peacefully on December 21, 2021 at the age of 93. She lived all her life in the Thumb of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, an area shaped like that digit on a mitten which juts into Lake Huron. After she married Mark’s father, Donald J. Schwartz, in 1954, they lived in Gagetown, a small village in Tuscola County, where sugar refining, ethanol processing, and growing grains and beans dominate the local economy.