This week on Team Shrub we are focusing entirely on one aspect of change in the tundra: phenology.
What is phenology?
Phenology (or “fun-ology” as my wife calls it) is, to put it simply, when things happen. It is the timing of life events.
As a PhD student, gazing out of the office window instead of writing up my thesis, phenology is what keeps the view interesting – when the leaves appear in spring, when the birds hatch, when the berries appear on my walk home, and when the trees turn auburn to mark the end of the year.
As a tundra ecologist, phenology offers a way to track the huge changes we are seeing as the Arctic warms. We track when things happen in our study ecosystems – when the snow melts, the leaf buds burst, the flowers appear, and the leaves begin to turn.
Monitoring the timing of life gives us a great deal of information that can shed light on how the tundra is changing, how fast, and what it might look like in the future.
For example, we can use phenology to see whether we are seeing an earlier spring, or longer growing seasons for tundra plants.
We can look at if plants can keep up with earlier snowmelt – and if the birds and the bees can keep up with the plants.
We can look at winners and losers: if some species respond to changes while others don’t, and if that tells us anything about community change in the tundra.
And we can look a little deeper still at whether phenology is somehow ingrained, tied to the genetics of an individual or a species, or whether it can respond to the rapid environmental changes going on in the Arctic.
What’s in store this week?
This week we have five posts focusing on the different ways we measure and monitor phenology at our field sites.
- On Monday Haydn will look at the ways we can monitor phenology in the Arctic, even when there’s no-one around.
- On Tuesday, Isla and Gergana keep you up to speed with the latest phenology gossip at our northern field site on Qikiqtaruk – Herschel Island.
- On Wednesday, Izzy introduces you to our new phenocams at our southern field site, and the excitement of opening a box.
Thursday, and we’re up in the skies with Isla to find out how we use drones to measure Arctic vegetation changeOops. Sometimes the sat phone is acting up, so here are some cool time lapse videos instead. UPDATE: We are finally up in the skies!
And finally Friday, the one I am most looking forward to, where we will hear from the Yukon Parks Rangers who visit our phenology plots over the whole ice-free season. Wait for it. It’s coming up and it’s really good.UPDATE: First, from ranger Ricky Joe – Changes on Qikiqtaruk: Perspectives from Ranger Ricky Joe. Soon we will hear from ranger Edward McLeod as well!
So settle in, reach for the popcorn, and get ready for a wild, wild week of science.