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Tim Sparks, Woodland Trust, Poznań University of Life Sciences & Technische Universität München

Phenological monitoring


Phenology, the study of the timing of natural events, (probably) provides the longest written biological record we have. UK records go back for at least 300 years, some Japanese records go back 1300 years and some observations from Greece originate a couple of centuries BC. Data are easy and cheap to record and volunteers are very willing to contribute observations. Some committed individuals have recorded for periods of up to 60 years producing highly valuable archives from which to investigate change.

Phenology in the UK has undergone a revival since the 1990s. Professional scientific snobbery denouncing the use of amateurs, natural history in general, the unrepresentativeness of the data, and “what does it matter anyway?” has been all but eradicated. Many phenological events are very closely tied to temperature so that their timing reflects changes in the climate. The most recent IPCC report on climate impacts on ecosystems gave a special emphasis to phenology.

Globally, phenology is recorded by both amateur and professionals, in government schemes and by NGOS, universities and research institutes. A huge variety of material is recorded from (terrestrially) the first bear in spring in the Arctic Circle to the first midge of summer in the Western Isles. In this talk I will discuss the role of the public in long-term monitoring, providing some of the outstanding examples of their work and discuss some of the pros and cons of long-term phenology.


The slides for this talk are not available

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