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Old Plants, New Tricks: Phenological Research Using Herbarium Specimens

  • Author(s): Willis, CG
  • Ellwood, ER
  • Primack, RB
  • Davis, CC
  • Pearson, KD
  • Gallinat, AS
  • Yost, JM
  • Nelson, G
  • Mazer, SJ
  • Rossington, NL
  • Sparks, TH
  • Soltis, PS
  • et al.
Abstract

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.

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