Monday, 19 August 2019

Funology day!

Our field work routine is set by what we have affectionally called ‘funology day’. Every three days we visit four sites and record the phenological state of each tagged plant in the 20 plots (10 warmed open top chamber (OTC) plots and 10 control plots) at each site. We are recording the date we see the first new leaves, flower, immature fruit, seed dispersal and leaf senescing. The phenological progression is being followed for nine plant species – Arctic Willow (Salix arctica), Mountain Avens (Dryas integrifolia), Arctic White Heather (Cassiope tetragona), Mountain Sorrel (Oxyria digyna), Arctic Poppy (Papaver radicatum), Hairy Lousewort (Pedicularis hirsuta), Common Cotton Grass (Eriophorum angustifolium), Membranous Sedge (Carex membranacea) and Water Sedge (Carex stans). This all adds up to monitoring over 1000 individual plants! It is exciting to see the phenological progression and interesting to see how much further along the phenology is compared to the much colder year last year.

Plant species that we are recording phenology for (clockwise from top right): Arctic Poppy (Papaver radicatum), Common Cotton Grass (Eriophorum angustifolium), Arctic Willow (Salix arctica) and Mountain Avens (Dryas integrifolia). These photos were taken at the field camp, Twin Glacier River, fox den and on Sphynx Island respectively.
Plant species that we are recording phenology for (clockwise from top right): Hairy Lousewort (Pedicularis hirsuta), Membranous Sedge (Carex membranacea), Water Sedge (Carex stans), Arctic White Heather (Cassiope tetragona) and Mountain Sorrel (Oxyria digyna).     

The species we are following are both species that are dominant in the landscape and those that are less abundant in the landscape. The four sites in my study are in four different habitats: a site dominated by Arctic Willow, another dominated by Mountain Avens, a third dominated by Arctic White Heather, and finally a sedge meadow dominated by sedges. Studying both the dominant species in conjunction with less abundant species in each plot enables me to study the changes in abundance of species in relation to changes in phenology both over time and between warmed and control plots. To measure the species abundance, we are using the point frame method where we place a 1-metre square grid over the plot and record the species present at each grid point. Species abundance has been measured using the point frame method approximately every five years over the last 25 years at these sites at Alexandra Fiord. Thus, I can determine the change in species abundance over time.

Point frame used to measure species abundance in plots. The
species present at each point on the grid is recorded as an
approximation of species presence and abundance in the plot.
The upside-down pudding bowl on the left shades a temperature
logger recording the temperature of the plot every 5 minutes.

I am also monitoring the flowering and fruiting phenology of tagged Moss Campion (Silene acaulis) plants. The flowers open first on the south side of the domed cushion and then slowly the opening of flowers progresses over the top and sides to the north side of the plant. I am curious to see if the fruits produced on the south side are more reproductively successful than on the other sides i.e. does the timing of flowering affect the ability to produce viable seed. I am trying something new by photographing each plant from all sides and hope to build 3D pictures from which to count the number of flowers on the south, north, east, west and top of each plant.

North side of moss campion cushion (left) and east side of
cushion (right) showing the flowers are open on the south side
but not yet on the north side of the cushion.

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