BEMP is proudly observing the bosque in a new way – through phenology. Phenology is the study of when and how plants and animals change based on the seasons. Some of the data we collect at BEMP, through a program called Nature’s Notebook, helps us to understand the timing of bud bursts, leaf growth, flowering, migrating, nesting, etc. in many different species.
Initiated as a pilot project with Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge and the USA National Phenology Network in 2013, the Rio Grande Phenology Trail (RGPT) is a network of sites (including BEMP!) where observers conduct weekly monitoring on a suite of species including Rio Grande cottonwood and Siberian elm.
As the RGPT grows, so does what we study. Across the seven RGPT sites, in 2016, we submitted 29,026 observations on 41 species of plants and animals.
Regionally, we are looking at the phenology of plants and animals along the Rio Grande watershed to help make decisions about the restoration and management of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. On a larger scale, the long term data collection will help us to understand how Rio Grande watershed ecosystems are impacted by climate change. In addition, RGPT groups, like Valle de Oro, BEMP, the BioPark, Whitfield Wildlife Refuge, and the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, are providing data to National Phenology Network research campaigns like the Greenwave Southwest (on cottonwoods), Southwest Season Tracker (on desert shrubs like four-wing saltbush), and Nectar Connectors (on milkweed species).
Bringing BEMP, Valle de Oro NWR, and the USA National Phenology Network together in collaboration means that we can gather even more data as we ask fine-tuned questions about the phenology of bosque species as well as large scale questions about ecosystem response to a changing climate.
With BEMP, students monitor cottonwood phenology on their Study Trips to the Bosque School. As a part of our pilot schoolyard phenology project, students at Manzano Day School in Albuquerque and at J. Paul Taylor and Zia Middle Schools in Las Cruces are collecting data on their campuses.
Blog Post by Tallie Segel: BEMP and Rio Grande Phenology Trail Educator