Impact of tracking effects of climate change on ecosystem interactions has become the main concern of ecologists in the recent times. Currently, scientists rely upon dried herbarium specimens which estimate the first or peak flowering time by using the day of the year of a plant collection as its proxy. Since the herbarium specimens are collected at different stages of flowering and fruiting, known as “phonological” stages, the results are often not accurate enough, thus limiting how ecosystems will respond to shifting climate. A new research developed by Natalie Love, M.S., a new quantitative measure of phonological status known as ‘phenological index’ is used to improve the scoring of the developmental stage of herbarium specimens. The new system follows a protocol for attaining the phonological index of herbarium specimens through an automated way by using a free software package. “Herbarium specimens can be collected at a wide range of phenological stages from all buds to all fruits, so the assumption that specimens are collected on their day of year of first flower or peak flower is inaccurate,” explained Natalie Love, Ph.D. student at the University of California Santa Barbara. “This could be especially problematic if models constructed with these datasets are used to predict the day of year of onset of a particular assumed phenophase, which is one of the ultimate goals of studying phenology.” She further also claimed the method allows researchers to estimate the day of the year of onset of a particular phenophase (like peak flowering) instead of assuming DOY is same as peak flowering of the day of the first flower. For the experiment, the team studied Streptanthus tortuosus. It is a small plant in the mustard family native to the mountains of California. Results concluded plugging the phonological index changed the outcomes of the climate models. A phonological index and its associated protocols is been used at the same time as the digitization project which focuses on millions of California herbanium specimens known as Capturing California’s Flowers.
Tags : Herbarium specimens, Streptanthus tortuosus, California’s Flowers,