Phenology is the study of seasonality and timing in the natural world, and it is of particular importance in temperate ecosystems where the survival of species is dependent on the connections between trophic levels. Timing has evolved to match: plants bloom when the species that pollinate them are present in the ecosystem; songbirds nest when food availability is high; food demand of great-horned owlets peaks when prey is abundant in the spring. Synchrony and alignment in ecosystems is crucial, and historically was stable, though within range of natural variation.
But in a world where so much is changing, including the climate that species respond to, not all of the natural events that used to align continue to do so. The quick pace of climate change causes worry that species won’t be able to adapt rapidly enough, or that relationships between species will unravel. Monitoring the phenology of species is foundational to understanding ecosystem change.
We are monitoring the timing of spring leaf-out and flowering of common groundlayer and tree species in the Baraboo Hills. We will analyze this data in relation to our invertebrate datasets to create a picture inclusive of multiple trophic levels and plant-pollinator relationships.
For more information, or to volunteer for field data collection, send us a message!