Friday, July 6, 2018

How does phenology help protect Acadia National Park and other conservation areas?

Posted by Abe Miller-Rushing, Acadia National Park

As a National Park Service scientist (and Primack Lab alum) who has spent much of my career studying changes in the timing of phenological events, I get asked that question a lot. The answer is straightforward, but not obvious to many people (including myself when I started working at Acadia National Park): nearly all resource management actions depend on phenology. 


Park ranger monitors plant phenology at Acadia National Park. 

Tracking changes in the flowering times of plants helps us identify which species might be vulnerable (e.g., plants not keeping up with changes in climate conditions, or those becoming mismatched with key pollinators or seed dispersers) and which might become invasive (e.g., nonnative plants tracking changing climate very closely). Phenology data also improve the timing of when park staff go out to monitor the “vital signs” that help us track the health of Acadia’s ecosystems. People have phenology too - phenology that tracks nature pretty well in many cases (like when tourists choose to visit Acadia). So by studying changes in phenology we can forecast how the visitor season is likely to expand; these forecasts then inform park planning for transportation, staffing, and facilities. Perhaps most important, by participating in phenology citizen science people can “see” changes in the environment that might otherwise go unnoticed. 

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