What is Phenology?
All plants and animals experience life events which occur in the same pattern every year. These include the migration of birds, hibernation of animals, the blooming of flowers, and the shedding of leaves. Phenology is the study of how these natural events are timed by the plants and animals. Many scientists consider this to be crucial to identify the effects of local and global climate change. At this time, we have relatively less data available to accurately understand how environmental transformations are impacting important species.
One of the best records of phenology comes from the Japanese cherry festival. It has been celebrated for centuries now and records can be traced back as early as the ninth century. The records show how the timing of the festival has shifted over the years because of changes in spring temperatures.
A paper written in South Africa less than a decade ago identified a similar shift. It reported a change in the timing of apple and pear blossoms in Southwestern Capetown. The trees flowered earlier than the usual timings. In the United Kingdom, the phenological records maintained by the Marsham family have been crucial data for researchers. The Marsham Records includes over two centuries of data recorded by generations of the family.
How does Phenology help in understanding climate change?
Studies show that phenological events are sensitive to the climate. The shift in phenological events occurred long before irreversible transformation in the ecosystem became apparent. As a result, with the help of phenological data, we can understand the overall ecosystem health in a better way. It can also give us better insight into patterns of specific species.
Changes in the life events of plants and animals are triggered by different factors. The onset of rainfall, the reaching of a threshold temperature, the number of hours of sunshine are key factors. These may work singularly or in concurrence to cause a change in phenological events.
So far, we have been identifying climate change by reading signs of its after-effects. Cyclones, rising global temperatures, and receding shorelines are the outcome of climate change. But these impacts happen long after climate change is in effect.
Phenological events, on the other hand, are extremely sensitive to the slightest change in climate. This makes it easy to identify climate changes through the study of phenology. It also helps researchers look for the indicators of climate change well in advance.
Every species directly impacts others in the food chain and the community. As a result, changes in the timings of phenological events of one species can affect the survival of several other species. As climate change becomes a serious concern, phenology has gained more importance. Researchers are spending more time analyzing historic phenological records. This is done to help them identify present patterns and anticipate future patterns of specific species. Conservationists are also using phenology to better understand the transformations in an ecosystem.
What do we do?
At Animal Club, we discuss conservation and climate change at animal parties making education fun for the children. If you are planning a fun event for kids or adults, then an animal party could be just the thing. Our team can visit the venue with the requested animals and conduct an animal handling workshop. An animal workshop typically includes a fun session about the animals and animal conservation efforts. Additionally, we also conduct animal school visit for school-going children of all ages. Our goal is to educate children about the animals, and existing problems in animal conservation. Based on the age group, we may end up discussing crucial topics like phenology and climate change, which directly affects animal species.