Ecosystems

Status and Trends

NPN: The USA National Phenology Network

Citizen Science: Taking the Pulse of Our Planet

The USA National Phenology Network is a national-scale science and monitoring initiative focused on phenology, which is the study of seasonal life-cycle events such as leafing, flowering, reproduction and migration, as a tool to understand how plants, animals and landscapes respond to environmental variation and change.

Timely and widely-distributed phenological information at national scales is critical for

  • managing wildlife, invasive species and agricultural pests,
  • understanding drought and wildfire risk, and
  • managing risks to human health and welfare, including allergies, asthma, and vector-borne diseases.

The use of standardized protocols and strict quality assurance and quality control techniques created a first-rate dataset on seasonal plant and animal activity to aid resource management decision-making under changing environments.

Results

NPN data and associated models were used to document a 4% extension of the growing season in the eastern United States over the last three decades, which has implications (both positive and negative) for local activities and economies, such as maple syrup and honey production, bird migrations, cultural festivals, harvesting of native herbs and biological sequestration of carbon.

Featured Publications

Investing in citizen science can improve natural resource management and environmental protection

Developing a workflow to identify inconsistencies in volunteered geographic information: a phenological case study

Review of the USA National Phenology Network

Focused campaign increases activity among participants in Nature's Notebook, a citizen science project

Stakeholders

People who make decisions about resource management and adaptation to variable and changing climates and environments, including

  • researchers,
  • resource managers,
  • educators,
  • communication specialists,
  • non-profit organizations,
  • human health organizations,
  • science networks,
  • the public.

Collaborators

We collect phenological data at landscape scales across the nation with
  • National Park Service,
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
  • U.S. Forest Service,
  • “Citizen Scientists”,
  • many federal and non-federal organizations.
Sources:

Top Photo: Volunteer Rich MacIntosh releases a banded landbird as part of the refuge's citizen science bird banding station. Photo courtesy of Lisa Hupp, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.