is this study important?
information your students gather may help reveal evidence of
climate change in the Northern Hemisphere. As we look at long-term
data from Journey North sites, and share that data with scientists,
we will look for patterns. Are tulips in different regions blooming
earlier, on average, than they were 20 years ago? Does this
tell us the climate is changing? If so, how could that affect
other plants and livings things that depend on them?
We can only answer questions like these with long-term data
from observation sites across the hemisphere. As scientists,
we never know when we collect data how it might be useful to
future scientists. (British gardeners kept records for more
than 100 years on bloom times of certain flowers. This gave
scientists some of the first evidence that the climate was,
in fact, changing!)
As classroom scientists use tulips as tools for watching spring
unfold, they are contributing to this wealth of information.
What's more, they are laying the groundwork for being informed
citizens who will need to understand — and make decisions
about — challenging environmental issues!
Why Look at Plants?
As plants go through their life cycles, they reveal the effects
of temperature, rainfall, sunshine, and other factors. Plants
can’t move in response to environmental changes.* So a
changing climate would likely affect the bloom times and health
of many plant species. This, in turn, can have a ripple affect
on other living things that depend on those plants for food,
shelter, and more.
Journey North uses tulip plants because they are easy to use
in a widespread experiment. They are also sensitive to temperature
variations, particularly in the 3 to 4 weeks before blooming.
are not native to North America. Native plants are ideal indicators
of climate change because such plants have adapted their life
cycles over thousands or millions of years to a region’s
climate. But no native plant species grows throughout the Northern
Hemisphere, so tulips were selected because they can be grown
by all participants.
Individual plants can’t move in response to a warming
climate. But scientists have discovered that, over time, the
ranges of many plant species have slowly moved north or to higher