Plant phenology networks of citizen scientists: recommendations from two decades of experience in Canada

Abstract

Plant phenology networks of citizen scientists have a long history and have recently contributed to our understanding of climate change effects on ecosystems. This paper describes the development of the Alberta and Canada PlantWatch programs, which coordinate networks of citizen scientists who track spring development timing for common plants. Tracking spring phenology is highly suited to volunteers and, with effective volunteer management, observers will stay loyal to a phenology program for many years. Over two decades beginning in 1987, Alberta PlantWatch volunteers reported 47,000 records, the majority contributed by observers who participated for more than 9 years. We present a quantitative analysis of factors that determine the quality of this phenological data and explore sources of variation. Our goal is to help those who wish to initiate new observer networks with an analysis of the effectiveness of program protocols including selected plant species and bloom stages.

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Acknowledgements

Funding to carry out the analysis presented in this paper was provided by the NSERC Discovery Grant RGPIN-330527-07 and Alberta Ingenuity Grant #200500661. We thank all citizen scientists who contributed to the data collection and we appreciate their enthusiasm and continued support of this program. Comments on the manuscript were kindly provided by Dr. M. Hall-Beyer and we also thank L. Seale for editing.

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Correspondence to Elisabeth G. Beaubien.

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Beaubien, E.G., Hamann, A. Plant phenology networks of citizen scientists: recommendations from two decades of experience in Canada. Int J Biometeorol 55, 833–841 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-011-0457-y

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Keywords

  • Citizen science
  • Climate change
  • Phenology
  • Flowering
  • Canada