, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 579-589
Date: 04 Jan 2014

Phenology research for natural resource management in the United States

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Abstract

Natural resource professionals in the United States recognize that climate-induced changes in phenology can substantially affect resource management. This is reflected in national climate change response plans recently released by major resource agencies. However, managers on-the-ground are often unclear about how to use phenological information to inform their management practices. Until recently, this was at least partially due to the lack of broad-based, standardized phenology data collection across taxa and geographic regions. Such efforts are now underway, albeit in very early stages. Nonetheless, a major hurdle still exists: phenology-linked climate change research has focused more on describing broad ecological changes rather than making direct connections to local to regional management concerns. To help researchers better design relevant research for use in conservation and management decision-making processes, we describe phenology-related research topics that facilitate “actionable” science. Examples include research on evolution and phenotypic plasticity related to vulnerability, the demographic consequences of trophic mismatch, the role of invasive species, and building robust ecological forecast models. Such efforts will increase phenology literacy among on-the-ground resource managers and provide information relevant for short- and long-term decision-making, particularly as related to climate response planning and implementing climate-informed monitoring in the context of adaptive management. In sum, we argue that phenological information is a crucial component of the resource management toolbox that facilitates identification and evaluation of strategies that will reduce the vulnerability of natural systems to climate change. Management-savvy researchers can play an important role in reaching this goal.