The Phenology Garden at Highlands Biological Station is a prototype“Phenological Observatory” — the first of what we hope will become a network of regional phenology gardens using a common set of plants for ease of comparison of phenological events across the elevation and precipitation gradients of the southern Appalachians.
The shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns associated with global climate change are expected to result in complex ecological responses. Ultimately these changes are manifested in shifts in the composition and distribution of biological communities, but this process of ecological change occurs at a very slow rate, becoming evident over a period of years to decades. At local and regional scales, the earliest responses are reflected in changes in the seasonal phenology of plants and animals — the timing of events in the lifecycle or seasonal activity of these organisms. For plants these include such events as budbreak, flowering period, fruiting, and autumn leaf color change and leaf drop. Examples of animal phenological events include migration and nesting of birds, the emergence and breeding of insects and amphibians, and the timing of plant-pollinator interactions. Long-term observations of biological lifecycle events such as these can provide insight into the ecological effects of changes in temperature or precipitation patterns in a given locale.
Our Phenology Garden provides a selection of plants in an easily observed setting, inviting observers to record the timing of phenological events for each species. Visit the Garden in person or use our “Phenocam” webcam to make observations. This website is a portal for making and reporting observations and obtaining further information, as well as for consulting our weather instruments for local meteorological conditions. As a record of observations accumulates we will periodically analyze and summarize them for this website.