Visualizing the effects of climate change on hawk migration phenology: Results from an experimental collaboration between the academic, public, private, and non-governmental sectors
Increasingly, scientists and society, alike, have expressed concern that global climate change may be causing local biodiversity loss. One hypothesis that links climate to biodiversity is that climate change alters the phenology of interacting species creating a mismatch in the timing of life cycle events and the resources needed to sustain those events. Among the challenges in discovering whether phenological mismatch is occurring are being able to successfully 1) find and access relevant data sets, 2) knit together disparate databases to perform meaningful analyses and interpretation, and 3) integrate and visualize the data to use in education, communication, and decision making. To overcome these challenges, we have created a unique collaborative team comprising members from the academic, private, public, and non-governmental sectors to create an online tool that integrates, visualizes, and provides the data necessary to explore changes in the phenology of birds over time and in relation to weather, climate, and plant phenology.
We use the autumn migration of raptors, songbirds, and shorebirds at Acadia National Park, Maine, USA as a test case for our tool. On our website, the user can interface with multiple datasets, easily pulling the data of interest. The user can see a map of daily changes in raptor migration set against background layers of wind, temperature, precipitation, songbird and shorebird numbers, and vegetation “brown-down.” The user can also see in graph form, annual differences in migration phenology and models that predict phenological measures (e.g. start date, peak date, shape of migration, interspecific synchrony) from climate variables. The user can input projected climate regimes and see the resulting changes to raptor migration phenology. At the same time, we are soliciting feedback on the user experience to test whether our visualizations lead to an improved understanding of how climate change affects local bird diversity. We intend to expand our test case to continental scales to broaden the range of user groups and questions that get asked of phenology data. Through time, our tool will become a key resource for monitoring phenological mismatch and its consequence to individual species and local communities.