The National Phenology Network (NPN) is a vast network of researchers, community scientists, programmers, policy-makers, and educators that work together to provide “data and information on the timing of seasonal events in plants and animals to ensure the well-being of humans, ecosystems, and natural resources.”
Tremont is also a member of the NPN, as we began tracking seasonal changes in our valley in October of 2010. We established 8 phenology plots that community scientists visit weekly during the transitional seasons, spring and fall. The National Park Service has established almost 30 similar plots across the Smokies, representing different elevations, aspects, and forest types.
We are interested in how climate change and other environmental changes affect both tree phenology as well as species interactions. For example, if the trees produce leaves earlier in the spring, do caterpillars also arrive earlier to eat those leaves [see Caterpillars Count!]? If caterpillars arrive earlier, do birds that have not shifted their migration patterns miss out on this important food source?
Nature’s Notebook is the app that our community scientists use to upload phenology data from our plots. This data is then publicly accessible and has been used in hundreds of studies. Researchers and policy-makers use the data to make models to predict how certain species and ecosystems may react in a changing climate, or to calibrate satellite imagery with on the ground observations, and much more.