Old Plants, New Tricks: Phenological Research Using Herbarium Specimens

Charles G Willis, Elizabeth R. Ellwood, Richard B. Primack, Charles C. Davis, Katelin D. Pearson, Amanda S. Gallinat, Jenn M. Yost, Gil Nelson, Susan J. Mazer, Natalie L. Rossington, Tim Sparks, Pamela S. Soltis

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    201 Citations (Scopus)
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    The timing of phenological events, such as leaf-out and flowering, strongly influence plant success and their study is vital to understanding how plants will respond to climate change. Phenological research, however, is often limited by the temporal, geographic, or phylogenetic scope of available data. Hundreds of millions of plant specimens in herbaria worldwide offer a potential solution to this problem, especially as digitization efforts drastically improve access to collections. Herbarium specimens represent snapshots of phenological events and have been reliably used to characterize phenological responses to climate. We review the current state of herbarium-based phenological research, identify potential biases and limitations in the collection, digitization, and interpretation of specimen data, and discuss future opportunities for phenological investigations using herbarium specimens.

    Phenology (i.e., the timing of flowering, leaf-out, and other recurring biological events) is an essential component in measuring how species have responded and will continue to respond to climate change.

    Herbarium specimens are increasingly being recognized and valued as a reliable source for estimating phenological behavior for a diversity of plant species.

    As millions of herbarium specimens become available online through massive digitization efforts, developing efficient methods and standards for the collection of large amounts of specimen-based phenological data is vital to leveraging these data for research purposes.

    Through integration with existing phenological datasets such as remote sensing and citizen science observations, herbarium specimens offer the potential to provide novel insights into plant diversity and ecosystem processes under future climate change

    Publisher Statement: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, [(in press), (2017)] DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2017.03.015

    © 2017, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)531-546
    JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
    Issue number7
    Early online date29 Apr 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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