Earth Notes
4:33 am
Wed April 8, 2009

Earth Notes - Climate Change IV: Project BudBurst

Flagstaff, AZ – Earth Notes: Climate Change IV: Project BudBurst

This week Earth Notes wraps up its series on climate change on the Colorado Plateau with a look at a volunteer effort aimed at better understanding regional climate patterns.

One of them is Susan Lamb, a writer and naturalist who has been monitoring native plants around her Flagstaff home for several years. She's a volunteer with Project BudBurst, a growing nationwide network of people who are helping to track climate change in backyards all over the country.

Lamb has been recording the exact dates when such native wildflowers as Woods' rose, yarrow, and scarlet gilia [pron. hard g, not h] first bloom. Northern Arizona's variable weather makes her task a challenge. She's found that blooming dates are definitely affected by the presence of snow and the arrival of summer rains.

But over time, the records she and others compile will help researchers determine what sorts of long-term trends are taking place.

Project BudBurst is an example of applied phenology, which is the study of the annual life cycles of plants and animals. It's a science that can help ecologists understand large-scale changes. Long-running observations of lilacs, for example, have shown that these shrubs tend to leaf out and bloom 8 to 10 days earlier in many parts of the West than they did 25 years ago.

You can learn how to monitor plants in your area by visiting www.budburst.org. And we can all learn to watch for signs of climate change around us so we can both adapt to it and reduce our contribution to it.

-Rose Houk