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Title: Assessing Plant Phenological Patterns in the Eastern United States Over the Last 120 Years
Phenology is a key biological trait of an organism’s success and is one of the best indicators of its response to recent climate change. Plants are among the mostMore>>
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Environmental Data Initiative
Publication Year:
Award ID(s):
2101884 2105903 1802209 1754584
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Plant phenology has been shifting dramatically in response to climate change, a shift that may have significant and widespread ecological consequences. Of particular concern are tropical biomes, which represent the most biodiverse and imperiled regions of the world. However, compared to temperate floras, we know little about phenological responses of tropical plants because long-term observational datasets from the tropics are sparse. Herbarium specimens have greatly increased our phenological knowledge in temperate regions, but similar data have been underutilized in the tropics and their suitability for this purpose has not been broadly validated. Here, we compare phenological estimates derived from field observational data (i.e., plot surveys) and herbarium specimens at various spatial and taxonomic scales to determine whether specimens can provide accurate estimations of reproductive timing and its spatial variation. Here we demonstrate that phenological estimates from field observations and herbarium specimens coincide well. Fewer than 5% of the species exhibited significant differences between flowering periods inferred from field observations versus specimens regardless of spatial aggregation. In contrast to studies based on field records, herbarium specimens sampled much larger geographic and climatic ranges, as has been documented previously for temperate plants, and effectively captured phenological responses across varied environments. Herbarium specimensmore »are verified to be a vital resource for closing the gap in our phenological knowledge of tropical systems. Tropical plant reproductive phenology inferred from herbarium records are widely congruent with field observations, suggesting that they can (and should) be used to investigate phenological variation and their associated environmental cues more broadly across tropical biomes.« less
  2. Abstract Background and Aims Fruiting remains under-represented in long-term phenology records, relative to leaf and flower phenology. Herbarium specimens and historical field notes can fill this gap, but selecting and synthesizing these records for modern-day comparison requires an understanding of whether different historical data sources contain similar information, and whether similar, but not equivalent, fruiting metrics are comparable with one another. Methods For 67 fleshy-fruited plant species, we compared observations of fruiting phenology made by Henry David Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts (1850s), with phenology data gathered from herbarium specimens collected across New England (mid-1800s to 2000s). To identify whether fruiting times and the order of fruiting among species are similar between datasets, we compared dates of first, peak and last observed fruiting (recorded by Thoreau), and earliest, mean and latest specimen (collected from herbarium records), as well as fruiting durations. Key Results On average, earliest herbarium specimen dates were earlier than first fruiting dates observed by Thoreau; mean specimen dates were similar to Thoreau’s peak fruiting dates; latest specimen dates were later than Thoreau’s last fruiting dates; and durations of fruiting captured by herbarium specimens were longer than durations of fruiting observed by Thoreau. All metrics of fruiting phenology exceptmore »duration were significantly, positively correlated within (r: 0.69–0.88) and between (r: 0.59–0.85) datasets. Conclusions Strong correlations in fruiting phenology between Thoreau’s observations and data from herbaria suggest that field and herbarium methods capture similar broad-scale phenological information, including relative fruiting times among plant species in New England. Differences in the timing of first, last and duration of fruiting suggest that historical datasets collected with different methods, scales and metrics may not be comparable when exact timing is important. Researchers should strongly consider matching methodology when selecting historical records of fruiting phenology for present-day comparisons.« less
  3. Abstract Temperate understory plant species are at risk from climate change and anthropogenic threats that include increased deer herbivory, habitat loss, pollinator declines and mismatch, and nutrient pollution. Recent work suggests that spring ephemeral wildflowers may be at additional risk due to phenological mismatch with deciduous canopy trees. The study of this dynamic, commonly referred to as “phenological escape”, and its sensitivity to spring temperature is limited to eastern North America. Here, we use herbarium specimens to show that phenological sensitivity to spring temperature is remarkably conserved for understory wildflowers across North America, Europe, and Asia, but that canopy trees in North America are significantly more sensitive to spring temperature compared to in Asia and Europe. We predict that advancing tree phenology will lead to decreasing spring light windows in North America while spring light windows will be maintained or even increase in Asia and Europe in response to projected climate warming.
  4. Abstract
    Phenology––the timing of life-history events––is a key trait for understanding responses of organisms to climate. The digitization and online mobilization of herbarium specimens is rapidly advancing our understanding of plant phenological response to climate and climatic change. The current common practice of manually harvesting data from individual specimens greatly restricts our ability to scale data collection to entire collections. Recent investigations have demonstrated that machine-learning models can facilitate data collection from herbarium specimens. However, present attempts have focused largely on simplistic binary coding of reproductive phenology (e.g., flowering or not). Here, we use crowd-sourced phenological data of numbers of buds, flowers, and fruits of more than 3000 specimens of six common wildflower species of the eastern United States (Anemone canadensis, A. hepatica, A. quinquefolia, Trillium erectum, T. grandiflorum, and T. undulatum} to train a model using Mask R-CNN to segment and count phenological features. A single global model was able to automate the binary coding of reproductive stage with greater than 90% accuracy. Segmenting and counting features were also successful, but accuracy varied with phenological stage and taxon. Counting buds was significantly more accurate than flowers or fruits. Moreover, botanical experts provided more reliable data than either crowd-sourcers orMore>>
  5. PREMISE Quantifying how closely related plant species differ in susceptibility to insect herbivory is important for our understanding of variation in plant-insect ecological interactions and evolutionary pressures on plant functional traits. However, empirically measuring in situ variation in herbivory over the entire geographic range where a plant-insect complex occurs is logistically difficult. Recently, new methods have been developed to use herbarium specimens to investigate patterns in plant-insect interactions across geographic areas, and during periods of accelerating anthropogenic change. Such investigations can provide insights into changes in herbivory intensity and phenology in plants that are of ecological and agricultural importance. METHODS Here, we analyze 274 pressed herbarium samples from all 14 species in the economically important plant genus Cucurbita (Cucurbitaceae) to investigate variation in herbivory damage. This collection is comprised of specimens of wild, undomesticated Cucurbita that were collected from across their native range in the Neotropics and subtropics, and Cucurbita cultivars that were collected from both within their native range and from locations where they have been introduced for agriculture in temperate Eastern North America. RESULTS We find that herbivory is common on individuals of all Cucurbita species collected from throughout their geographic ranges; however, estimates of herbivory varied considerablymore »among individuals, with greater damage observed in specimens collected from unmanaged habitat. We also find evidence that mesophytic species accrue more insect damage than xerophytic species. CONCLUSIONS Our study demonstrates that herbarium specimens are a useful resource for understanding ecological interactions between domesticated crop plants and co-evolved insect herbivores.« less