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The Daily Bucket has inspired many of us to become increasingly interested in phenology, the tracking of the timing of seasonal events. We informally enter our observations here and many of us are also keeping more rigorous records in other forms.  But few of us can match this amazing 39-year study of blooming times of wildflowers in a Colorado Rocky Mountain meadow.  

The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Snails, fish, insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
Come below the abstract Columbia lily blossom to learn more.

Columbia lily on Hurricane Ridge (Olympic NP) July 30, 2013

This study amassed records from 2 million blooms!  The findings are that two-thirds of the alpine flowers have changed their blooming patterns in response to climate change, but not always in expected ways - not just shifting the blooming cycle earlier.

The senior researcher, Professor David Inouye of the University of Maryland, began the study so many years ago to learn about the nectar sources available to hummingbirds and bumble bees in the wildflower meadow.  His group started by counting flowers and has kept counting for 4 decades. While climate change wasn't the original motivation, their long-term data are now wonderfully positioned to answer questions about the changing climate.  

Unlike many data sets which just record date of first bloom, these researchers counted the numbers of blooms in 30 plots every other day for up to 5 months of the year.  Thus, they know about first, last, and peak flowering times.  The study analyzed records of 60 species of wildflowers.  

It's perhaps not surprising to us that half of the flowers are blooming earlier and the peak occurs earlier as well for a third of the species.  The blooming season is also a full month longer.  The peak blooming is more spread out over the longer season and combinations of flowers that used to bloom at the same time are changing. This can have impacts on the animals that depend on them.

The article cites an example.  Hummingbirds time their nesting so that eggs hatch at the peak blooming season so there will be lots of food.  If the peak is spread out and less intense at the expected time, there might not be as many flowers ready to provide nectar for the baby hummingbirds.

Wildflower meadow community (Olympic NP) Sept 4, 2011

Your turn!  Just think, 39 years from now, someone might be data-mining our Daily Bucket observations.  

I'll be responding to your comments as soon as morning arrives on the west coast.




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