Glossary Term: Phenology

Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate. The word is derived from the Greek φαίνω (phainō), “to show, to bring to light, make to appear” + λόγος (logos), amongst others “study, discourse, reasoning” and indicates that phenology has been principally concerned with the dates of first occurrence of biological events in their annual cycle. Examples include the date of emergence of leaves and flowers, the first flight of butterflies and the first appearance of migratory birds, the date of leaf coloring and fall in deciduous trees, the dates of egg-laying of birds and amphibia, or the timing of the developmental cycles of temperate-zone honey bee colonies. In the scientific literature on ecology, the term is used more generally to indicate the time frame for any seasonal biological phenomena, including the dates of last appearance (e.g., the seasonal phenology of a species may be from April through September). Because many such phenomena are very sensitive to small variations in climate, especially to temperature, phenological records can be a useful proxy for temperature in historical climatology, especially in the study of climate change and global warming. For example, viticultural records of grape harvests in Europe have been used to reconstruct a record of summer growing season temperatures going back more than 500 years. In addition to providing a longer historical baseline than instrumental measurements, phenological observations provide high temporal resolution of ongoing changes related to global warming.

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Created: 2019-06-27 03:19:24 PDT (-0700)
Last modified: 2019-06-27 03:19:24 PDT (-0700)