Potential of herbarium records to sequence phenological pattern: a case study of Aconitum heterophyllum in the Himalaya

Abstract

Several pieces of evidence indicate that global climate change is affecting biological systems all across the world. Phenology is one of the tools that may indicate changing patterns. The paper focuses on the phenological pattern of alpine/sub-alpine species Aconitum heterophyllum, a high-value medicinal herb of the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), a global hotspot and known to be sensitive to climatic change. In all 117 herbarium specimens of the species collected from three provinces (Western Himalaya, North West Himalaya and Trans Himalaya) of the region were recorded. Historic herbarium records (1848–2003) were analyzed to predict the flowering patterns using Generalized Additive Model (GAM) in view of complexity in the herbarium-based data structure. GAM indicated that the flowering time responded significantly, 26 days earlier per 1,000 m (P < 0.02). Likewise, the model showed significantly earlier flowering (17–25 days) during the last 100 years (P < 0.01). Moreover, maximum temperature of winter (December–February) explained increasing trends at both elevations (lower and mid) and mean winter temperature influenced the early flowering time (19–27 days) with an increase of 1°C. The overall early flowering of A. heterophyllum may perhaps be considered as indicator of climate change; however, more datasets of herbarium records are required to further strengthen this premise. This study was undertaken to show that herbarium records could be utilized as a potential resource for assessing climate change using GAM.

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Acknowledgments

UD acknowledges the support of National Academy of Sciences, India and KSG thanks the Director GBPIHED, for necessary facilities and to DST, New Delhi for partial financial support. We acknowledge the help rendered by BSI Kolkata and Dehradun, FRI Dehradun, NBRI Lucknow, HNBGU Srinagar Garhwal, VPKAS Almora and ARIES Nainital in collection of data. Mr. Triloki Pant is thanked for helping in data analysis. We thank anonymous referees for improving the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kailash S. Gaira.

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Gaira, K.S., Dhar, U. & Belwal, O.K. Potential of herbarium records to sequence phenological pattern: a case study of Aconitum heterophyllum in the Himalaya. Biodivers Conserv 20, 2201 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-011-0082-4

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Keywords

  • Aconitum heterophyllum
  • Early flowering
  • Generalized Additive Model
  • Herbarium specimens
  • Indian Himalayan Region
  • Phenology
  • Temperature