Capturing a backyard shot of one of the first blooms to upload to the PlantWatch app.
Do you enjoy the outdoors, springtime walks or gardening? Have you noticed which flowers have already been blooming? Plants are amazing at telling us how the weather is changing from one year to the next. In fact, many spring plants are sensitive to the number of nice, sunny days we get with temperatures higher than 0 degrees Celsius. It only takes small temperature changes to cause plants to flower early or late. This means that a cold spring will later be reflected by several spring flowers blooming late.
The recording of these dates of first or full blooms is a science in itself: It is called phenology. But why bother recording these dates? Doing so helps us understand how our climate is changing over time. This is not really new; records in Europe were first recorded bySwedish scientist and artist Linnaeus (father of the taxonomic classification of species) in 1750. In Canada, Nova Scotia appears to be one of the first provinces that systematically recorded phenological data. This was organized by Nova Scotia’s Superintendent of Education, Dr. Alexander H. MacKay, who requested that students collect the dates of plant flowering between 1897 and 1923. Thanks to these historical records from across North America, for example, we know that some plant species are now flowering earlier due to climate change.
Anyone can record dates of blooming plants in their neighbourhood. It is part of a citizen science initiative where your data can be integrated into a national monitoring program called PlantWatch. You can find more information, add your data and see your data on the map at naturewatch.ca/plantwatch/. As part of a network of “watchers,” you are kept informed of the results and the trends in our province and in other parts of Canada. This is a fun and completely free way to enjoy the outdoors. It’s also a great way for kids to learn about different plants, their names and how flowers open and produce seeds.
The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg and Sam Gauthier) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.