Global warming's pitch: Go North, young bird
(Page 2 of 2)
Some 93 plant species, roughly 26 percent of those Bertelsen tracked, flowered at significantly higher elevations during the second half of the period compared to the first half. The change is "concurrent with significant increases in summer temperatures across the region and are consistent with observed changes around the globe," the team writes.Skip to next paragraph
Lego figures to Jupiter on Juno spacecraft. Why send toys into space?
Paul the Octopus gets own memorial
Paul the Octopus has died. Who will predict the next World Cup outcome?
San Diego whale unearthed at the zoo
Killer shrimp assault British shrimp, threaten ecosystem
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Wanted: 40,000 observing sites
Crimmins's results are among the early ones stemming from the establishment of the USA National Phenology Network, a federally funded effort to track a range of changes that global warming is bringing to natural systems in the United States. It's part of a broader international effort to track shifts in plant, insect, and animal behaviors that are tied to changing seasons and have interlaced effects on breeding and life cycles.
Scientists are moving ahead on a modest network of heavily instrumented environmental observatories across the continent. But a handful sat back and thought bigger.
"Let's get citizen-scientists involved and pump things up to 40,000 observing locations," says Jake Weltzin, a US Geological Survey scientist and the executive director of the USA-NPN program, during a recent interview in his office just off the University of Arizona's campus.
The bird-watching efforts by Audubon and Cornell were clear models, adds Crimmins. "Those are some of the best data sets we have to infer the effects of the changing climate on natural resources," she said during the chat with Dr. Weltzin at the USA-NPN's coordinating center.
Indeed, she is interested in finding and using so-called legacy data sets – information gathered by people over long periods of time. Bertelsen's records represent one example. So do the data gathered by Henry David Thoreau. Last fall, a team led by Harvard University's Charles Willis published a study showing how a changing climate has led to lost plant species around Concord, Mass., since Thoreau's time. The team says its results suggest that climate change has altered the species mix, largely as a result of changes in flowering times.
And as word of the USA-NPN's work spreads, the program has started to get phone calls from people with potential useful legacy data, Crimmins says.
During a phone chat, he says that Project Feeder Watch – now entering its 22nd season – attracts roughly 15,000 participants a year; 75 percent are repeat participants.
But there's always room for more, particularly for people who are interested in helping over the long haul.
He counts 100 participants who have been at it since the program began, giving researchers a unique set of data among the careful work done by the other 14,900 participants. Demographics is taking its toll on this subset of the most seasoned observers, he says.
With some of the labs' entry-level monitoring programs, such as the Great Backyard Bird Count, the program hopes to continue refreshing the ranks of participants, including those whose interest remains kindled for decades.