Sun, Earth, Life, and the Seasons, an article about Phenology

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“Understanding phenology is essential to predicting and mitigating the effects of climate change on ecosystems”

By Cristian Acosta, Agriculture Educator Cornell Cooperative Extension Allegany County

Do you know what is phenology? Is it important? What is it?

Well, phenology is the study of the timing of natural events, such as the emergence of leaves and flowers, the migration of birds, and the breeding activities of animals. Phenology is crucial to understanding how plants and animals respond to environmental cues and how they adapt to changes in their habitat.

Changes in the timing of natural events can provide valuable insights into how ecosystems are responding to global warming. For example, studies have shown that many plants are flowering earlier in the year than they used to, and that migratory birds are arriving at their breeding grounds earlier than they used to. These changes are likely to have far-reaching effects on ecosystems, including changes in the timing of predator-prey interactions, changes in the distribution of species, and changes in the availability of food resources.

Phenology is also important to citizen science projects, where individuals can contribute to the study of natural events by recording their observations and submitting them to a database. This data can then be used by scientists to better understand the timing of natural events and how they are changing over time. It is a complex field, and there are many factors that can influence the timing of natural events. For example, changes in temperature, rainfall, and daylight hours can all affect the timing of plant and animal activities. In addition, interactions between species can also affect phenology.

In other words, phenology “is the study of how organisms respond in their daily lives to changes in light, temperature, and available resources during different seasons of the year” (Jakobi, 2023). Understanding phenology is essential to predicting and mitigating the effects of climate change on ecosystems. By tracking changes in the timing of natural events, scientists and citizen scientists alike can contribute to a better understanding of how ecosystems are responding to global warming.

References: Sun, Earth, Life, and the seasons: A Book of Phenology, by Steven Jakobi, Master Gardener Volunteer Allegany County. (2023).

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