Wednesday, August 5, 2009: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
Blrm B, Albuquerque Convention Center
Abraham J. Miller-Rushing
Adaptation to global change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, from both human and ecological perspectives. Recent global changes have already affected the availability of water, frequency and extent of wildfire, persistence and distribution of species, nutrient availability, and many other ecological and physical processes. This session will highlight the ubiquitous role that phenology plays in many of these responses to global change, and how phenology data can improve our ability to make management decisions. The role of phenology in the structure and function of ecological systems is often underappreciated, but its importance is magnified by climate change. As described in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007), shifts in phenology are among the most sensitive biological responses to climate change. They are occurring across trophic levels and are observable at local to global scales. Moreover, changes in the timing of phenological events have widespread impacts on ecological and biophysical processes – nearly every relationship and process depends on timing to some degree (and, often to a very large degree, viz pollination, predation, competition and niche differentiation, primary productivity). In addition, the phenology of many organisms is plastic and integrates many climate variables, including temperature, precipitation, wind, day-length, and even concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Thus, phenological data contain not just information about timing, but also information about environmental variables. Taken together, the ability of phenology to integrate climate variables, its ubiquitous role in ecological and physical responses to climate change, and the ease with which it can be observed, makes phenological data a critical tool for improving our understanding of ecological processes and for managing resources in the face of climate change. The many applications for phenological data and models include agriculture, drought monitoring, wildfire risk assessment, and the management of wildlife, invasive species, agricultural pests, and other risks to human health and welfare, including allergies, asthma, and vector-borne diseases. More broadly, phenology data can be used to inform the public about climate change science and its impacts on the environment through education and outreach programs. Here we bring together an interdisciplinary set of speakers to describe how phenology mediates ecological responses to global change and to highlight cutting edge applications of phenology data and models in a diverse set of management contexts.