Does the lilac in your backyard have something to tell you? Sandra Henderson of the National Ecological Observatory Network believes it does.

Henderson: “Every plant tells a story.”

Lilacs blooming

Because they’re sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation, plants are an indicator of a changing climate. We just have to pay attention to them over time.

So that’s exactly what a national network of volunteers is doing. As part of a program called “Project BudBurst,” citizen scientists are observing a variety of plants and entering their field notes online – for example the dates that a lilac starts to bud out, leaves appear, and when the flowers emerge.

Henderson: “And we even want to know throughout the year when is the plant fully leafed out? Fully flowered? What about when fruit starts forming and seeds ripen and drop? And then eventually the color of the leaves are going to change and they’re going to fall from the plant.”

Citizens are tracking when plants bloom and sharing their data with #climate scientists. Click To Tweet

Eight years of Project BudBurst data is free to the public online. It will take more time to identify any significant trends, but in the meantime, climate scientists can use the information to extend historical data sets and validate climate models. And volunteers can know they’re taking an active role in helping us understand the impacts of climate change.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Project Budburst
National Ecological Observatory Network
Project BudBurst (article)
Investigating Phenology With Project Budburst
Climate Change and Plants

Topics: Climate Science, Species & Ecosystems