Small tree in woods with tag. Researchers in background.

MN Impact: Phenology Helps Gather Needed Info on how Plants Adapt to Climate Change

June 29, 2017


Evidence for organismal response to climate change is growing but we lack basic information about how plants adapt to changing climates. Phenology, or the study of plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal changes, is one tool scientists can use to understand how plants are changing and adapting to our changing climate.

What has been done

Over 13,000 individual records representing more than 650 species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and plants have been digitized and made available on the Minnesota Phenology Network (MnPN). The oldest observations date back to 1941 providing an excellent source for comparison. Numerous trainings have been done to recruit new phenology observers in collaboration with Extension's Master Naturalists program. In addition, new information on phenology is being distributed via the Backyard Phenology Project which deploys a silver camper called the Climate Chaser to record stories of changes in Minnesota's climate.


Since 2013, observers have made 95,460 individual observations. 44,157 were added during the 2016-reporting period alone, which represents a 44 percent increase over the previous reporting period. These observations have been added to a database managed by the USA-National Phenology Network.

UMN researchers led a team of Master Naturalists interested in phenology.

Third annual MN Phenology Conference tour. Phenologists are interested in how climate change is affecting the plants around us and the boreal forest.