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Phenology

From Academic Kids

Phenology is the study of the times of recurring natural phenomena especially in relation to climate. Because many such phenomena are very sensitive to small variations in climate, phenology is useful in the study of climate change.


This usually means recording and comparing the life cycles of plants and animals, for example the dates of bird migration, plant budding, flowering or fruiting, insect activities, stages of birth and death are all annual events of interest to phenologists.

Records from the past

In Japan and China the time of blossoming of cherry and peach trees is associated with ancient festivals and some of these dates can be traced back to the eighth century. Such records form an important part of climate change research.

The pinot noir grape can also be used in historical phenology. Writing in Nature, Isabelle Chiune and coworkers describe how French records of pinot noir grape-harvest dates in Burgundy can be used to reconstruct spring–summer temperatures from 1370 to 2003. Chiune found that 2003 summer temperatures were probably higher than in any other year since 1370 (see global warming). Chiune goes on to state

The inferred anomaly for the summer of 2003 represents an unprecedented event. It was +5.86 °C warmer than the reference period (19601989), whereas the next highest anomaly during the whole period was +4.10°C in 1523. This confirms and refines the conclusions of previous studies about the exceptional warmth of the 2003 summer in France.

(data and quote from Nature 432, 289 - 290 (18 November 2004); doi:10.1038/432289a).

Other phenological evidence for climate change includes that of the Fitters, who studied First Flowering Date (FFD) of British flowering plants. Writing in Science in 2002, they state that "the average FFD of 385 British plant species has advanced by 4.5 days during the past decade compared with the previous four decades". They go on to state that FFD is sensitive to temperature and that "150 to 200 species may now be flowering on average 15 days earlier in Britain now than in the very recent past". The paper goes on to state that these earlier FFDs will have "profound ecosystem and evolutionary consequences".

(data and quotes from Science, Vol 296, Issue 5573, 1689-1691, 31 May 2002)

External links

  • UK Phenology network (http://www.phenology.org.uk/)
  • Nature Detectives (http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/) Online phenology research and education project for under 18s in the UK
  • Naturewatch: A Canadian Phenology project (http://www.naturewatch.ca/english/)
  • Climate Change (http://www.climatechange.com.au/) The latest news and information on climate change, alternative energy, global warming and energy efficiency from around the internet
  • Biowatch (http://www.bio.mq.edu.au/ecology/biowatch/Biowatch.htm) Phenology project from Macquarie University Australia

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