Hiding in plain sight: combining field-naturalist observations and herbarium records to reveal phenological change





climate change, phenology, Canada, boreal-mixed woods, angiosperms


As the climate warms, northern ecosystems are experiencing warmer winters and seasonal climatic shifts. Vascular plants are expected to respond to climate change by adjusting flowering or seeding periods. To determine how a native mixed-wood boreal floral assemblage has responded to warming temperatures over the 20th century, we collated historical observations made by field-naturalists as well as voucher data from the Thunder Bay region of Ontario, Canada. Combining these datasets, we performed regression analyses on 11 species of spring-flowering vascular plants to evaluate temporal trends and used spring cumulative growing degree day (sGDD0) to determine the influence of climate on flowering times. Four species showed consistent positive temporal trends (i.e., flowered later with time), while four species (three of which also demonstrated temporal trends) showed negative trends with sGDD0 (i.e., flowered earlier with an increased number of degree days above 0°C). The unexpected observation of later flowering times but predicted observation of earlier blooming with increased sGDD0 indicates that the inclusion of climate metrics may be necessary to determine the response of native vascular plants to the onset of changes in their environment. These observations were not statistically significant when field-naturalist or herbarium voucher data were analyzed separately, possibly due to low statistical power. Combining data from both sources, however, revealed common responses to climate warming among species within an ecoregion.

Author Biography

Emma S. Lehmberg, Texas A&M University

PhD Student

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Interdisciplinary Program