Date of Graduation
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Agricultural and Resource Economics
James T Anderson
Phenology, or the study of biological cycles in relation to the seasons, is a useful approach to study climate change and its effects on species. Analyzing historical records of phenology can give clues to understanding the future of ecosystems in relation to climate change. Specifically, using untapped sources of historical phenological data such as museum specimens, journals written by nature-minded citizens, and dated photographs can expand our temporal range of phenology data and provide a baseline with which to compare current phenology observations.;There is no central database for historical phenology data in West Virginia and there has been little research about the phenology of plants and animals in the state. The primary research objective of this study was to determine if phenophases of plants and animals have advanced in timing in West Virginia using historical sources. This question was addressed by creation of the West Virginia Climate History Project, which began in January 2015, with the goal to gather phenological information from archival sources in West Virginia, which resulted in scientifically and culturally relevant conclusions. This information was used to analyze patterns of avian spring migration and wildflower blooming over the last 130 years.;The average avian migrant has advanced its spring arrival by 1.7 days per decade over the last 127 years. Arrival dates were associated with increasing spring temperatures -- for each 1 oC increase in spring temperature, arrival date advanced by 0.81 days/decade. Several life history traits were linked to species that advanced their first arrival dates, including a shorter distance migrated to reach wintering grounds, increasing populations, and foraging habitat.;Two common spring ephemeral wildflowers, Cutleaf Toothwort ( Cardamine concatenata) and Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum), have advanced their spring blooming in West Virginia over the last 125 years (x¯ = 1.01 days/decade). Spring temperature was the strongest predictor of blooming date (2.91 and 3.57 days earlier/1°C increase in spring temperature, respectively). Flowers at < 500 m elevation bloomed earlier and demonstrated a stronger shift in flowering date over time than flowers at > 1000 m elevations.;This study demonstrates the plasticity of responses of some avian and wildflower species and highlights several factors that could lead to increased risk to other species due to climate change. These studies have also demonstrated the usefulness of archival sources to phenological and climate change studies, even over a large, variable geographic area.
Petrauski, Lori M., "Historical Phenology of West Virginia: 130 Years of Spring Avian Migration and Wildflower Blooming" (2017). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 6413.