Plant Phenology and Climate Change in the Santa Cruz County

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Simran Choudhary, Juliet R Oshiro and Laurel Fox, UC Santa Cruz HSSI Program, Santa Cruz, CA, United States
Phenology, or the timing of life cycle events, is affected by many variables including climate. To document phenology in grassland and sandhill habitats in Santa Cruz County, we recorded the blooming statuses of all species at 10 sites every 3-4 weeks. These sites were surveyed in the 1990’s by botanist Randall Morgan, and have been resurveyed since 2012. We also recorded temperature to examine how it relates to phenology change. We have temperature records dating back to the 1980’s from local weather stations, but they do not record data at vegetation height. To compare temperature at the vegetation level with weather station records, we employed data loggers at vegetation height, and recorded soil and leaf temperature. We also measured specific leaf area (SLA), or the ratio of leaf area to the dry mass, for leaves collected in the field because leaf thickness often relates to drought and heat tolerance. We examined the relationship between SLA and phenology differences between the historic and present day surveys; also between groups of species with different ecological traits, including functional group, life cycle, and natives versus non-natives. For the temperature records, preliminary results show that temperatures from the dataloggers and weather stations were significantly correlated. Soil and leaf temperatures are also correlated with data logger temperatures, though not as strongly. Preliminary results show that SLA differs between functional groups, annuals and perennials, and native and non-native species. SLA also relates to whether plants bloom earlier, later, or do not change their phenology over time. Overall, we found that it is important to use multiple sources of temperature data, and that SLA might relate to how different types of plants change their phenology with climate.