is Seasonal Change Linked to Climate?
gather long-term data on the timing of natural events such
as the return of a migrating animal. Then they compare it
with climate data for the same period. They may discover patterns
of change (e.g., between temperatures and the average date
of return of a species). Next, they ask, How might this
directly or indirectly affect a plant or animal’s ability
to meet its basic needs and reproduce?
early history, humans have been aware of seasonal changes in plant
and animal life cycles. Phenology is the study
of the timing of these changes. Animals hibernate or migrate, leaves
grow, flowers bloom, insects hatch, and so on. After thousands or
millions of years of evolution, these events are naturally matched
with a species’ biological needs to find food, reproduce,
and otherwise survive. Daylength — which changes predictably
throughout the year — and a region’s climate (especially
temperature and rainfall) determine when these events typically
and animals can handle natural variations in weather from season
to season and year to year. For instance, some years are colder
or wetter on average. But as long-term weather patterns (climate)
have changed more rapidly – and dramatically – than
ever before, the average timing of many life cycle events has shifted.
This has put some species out of synch with food chains and other
parts of the ecosystems they depend on.
changes happen slowly enough that we wouldn’t notice them
day to day. But tracking them over many years can give us clues
about climate change and its impact on the health of living things
and entire ecosystems. Through Journey North, students can join
scientists and other citizens in making these important observations.
Can a Changing Climate Affect Plants and Animals?