Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 997–1008 | Cite as

Observed climate-induced changes in plant phenology in the Netherlands

  • Arnold J. H. van VlietEmail author
  • Wichertje A. Bron
  • Sara Mulder
  • Wout van der Slikke
  • Baudewijn Odé
Original Article


We determined whether climate change in the Netherlands has caused phenological changes since 1868. We analysed over 150,000 plant phenological observations of 320 plant species, obtained by four volunteer networks and one series collected by Mr. Braaksma. With the network data, we compared the timing of life cycle events in three different periods: 1894–1932 (Period 1), 1940–1968 (Period 2) and 2001–2010 (Period 3). For the Braaksma series, we compared the periods 1953–1968 (Period A) with 1969–1992 (Period B). We conclude that until the beginning of the 1990s, there have been no significant changes in the timing of life cycle events. The timing of life cycle events in Period 3 showed an average advance of flowering, leaf unfolding and fruit ripening of 14 days compared with Period 1 and 13 days compared with Period 2. Some species have advanced up to over 35 days. Autumn events occurred up to an average of 7 days later in Period 3 compared to earlier periods. This study shows that, based on network data, changes in climate explain on average 66 % of the variation in timing of phenological events from year to year. For the Braaksma data, this is 38 %. The expected future changes in climate will undoubtedly result in a further lengthening of the growing season. We believe that phenological networks, supported by thousands of volunteers, are needed to quantify, analyse, predict and communicate these phenological changes so various sectors in society can adapt to these changes and prevent significant socio-economic impacts.


Phenology Plants Climate change Netherlands Citizen science 



We would like to thank all the organisations that financially supported the ‘Natuurkalender’ network since 2001: Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds; Stichting Weten; VSB-Fonds; Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality; BSIK Climate changes Spatial Planning; Siemens Diagnostics; BSIK Space for Geo-Information; European Commission; the Nationale Postcode Loterij and numerous volunteers who donated money. Furthermore, without the help of all the partner organisations of Nature’s Calendar and the thousands of observers and hundreds of school children in the context of the GLOBE programme that participated and submitted observations, this research would not have been possible.

Supplementary material

10113_2013_493_MOESM1_ESM.docx (72 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 71 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arnold J. H. van Vliet
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Wichertje A. Bron
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sara Mulder
    • 2
  • Wout van der Slikke
    • 3
  • Baudewijn Odé
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Systems Analysis GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Foundation for Sustainable DevelopmentWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.FLORONNijmegenThe Netherlands

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