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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Phenology Garden at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

Region 5, August 2, 2013
Toni Mikula, LMRD technician, takes data on the life cycle of the plants found in the Rachel Carson NWR phenology garden.
Toni Mikula, LMRD technician, takes data on the life cycle of the plants found in the Rachel Carson NWR phenology garden. - Photo Credit: n/a

The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is progressing into the future with aspirations to track the effects of climate change on local plants through our onsite phenology garden. Phenology is the life cycle plants follow with key seasonal changes including bud formation, the appearance of flowers, seed dispersal, and leaf drop. Starting in spring 2012, Toni Mikula, a Land Management Research and Demonstration (LMRD) employee, began collecting data on the timing of our plant changes. Toni continues to do so twice a week until the plants become dormant for the winter. She records these observations online with the National Phenology Network (NPN) (www.usanpn.org). The NPN has a long-term data set thanks to citizen scientists all over the country. By comparing seasonal plant life cycles here in Wells, Maine with other sections of the United States we can get a widespread idea of how climate change is altering nature’s calendar. Rachel Carson NWR is undertaking this project thanks to grant and LMRD funding.
Although we have only been recording data since May 2012, Toni has already noticed an interesting shift. Last year, the refuge experienced a warm dry spring. This year (2013) southern Maine had a cool wet spring. The phenology garden data showed that our 2013 plants, including red maple and paper birch, began budding later in the season. Information of this kind can help predict what variation plants’ phenology may experience as a consequence of climate change. Scientists use these records to help predict what climate change may mean for our natural world in years to come.

 

For more information contact:

Toni Mikula
Biological Technician
Toni_mikula@fws.gov

or

Susan C. Adamowicz, Ph.D.
LMRD Biologist
Susan_adamowicz@fws.gov
Rachel Carson NWR
321 Port Rd.
Wells, ME 04090
207-646-9226 x 31

Contact Info: Stephanie Petrus, 207-646-9226, stephanie_petrus@fws.gov