Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Why Phenology is Hard

One of my favorite quotations is, "Ecology is not rocket science -- it is far more difficult." (Hilborn & Ludwig).  Ecosystems are incredibly complex systems made up of numerous other systems.  There are countless interrelationships that we know of that affect the life of each plant and animal... and probably even more about which we don't know.  The factors that influence patterns of growth and decay are many, and constantly affect each other.  As John Muir eloquently pointed out, "when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."  

Yesterday I was contemplating a clump of bottlebrush buckeyes.  These shrubs are all growing together in a relatively open area... that is to say, they are subjected to roughly the same conditions vis a vis precipitation, sunlight and other weather factors, as well as animal pests and pollinators.  And yet, in this small group of bushes, I found plants in very different phenophases.  We can only imagine the variation in plants that live in slightly or vastly different conditions.  And, of course, this species is just one example among many we could look to... makes it hard to know exactly what to report when, just saying...
The most common phenophase (seeds, green leaves).
The hangers-on -- still flowering (see how they get the name bottlebrush buckeye?)
The early adopters, already getting their fall color and shedding some leaflets. 

1 comment:

  1. Naomi, I was at a nature writing workshop this past Sunday, at Trail Wood, Edwin Way Teale's legacy here in CT, and we were discussing the same thing--one fern brown, right new to another, lush and green!