The Phenoclim Project

The CREA aims to develop scientific research in high altitude environments: the biology of high altitude populations, the impact of climate change and human activities and on high altitude ecosystems. The goal of the CREA is to pursue this research to improve our understanding as well as increase public awareness through educational activities.

In autumn 2004, The Research Centre for Alpine Ecosystems (CREA) launched a new research programme called ‘Phenoclim’. “Phenoclim” comes from phenology – the study of the timing of life-cycle events of organisms – and climate. This project aims to measure changes in the seasonal emergence of various plants on specific dates, serving as indicators for climate change within the Alpine region.

The project maintains 65 sample plots in recreational areas in altitudes from 250 to 2150m. With the help of 86 voluntary and professional observers the plots are sampled seven times per year. More than 1,000 participants have attended the accompanying educational programme. The new project funding of EUR€30,000 will allow for expansion of the information, incorporating more data, e.g. more sample plots and satellite data. In addition the aim is to attract more observers in areas that are currently under-represented by the general public. And finally the project plans to foster an environmental education programme covering the Alps and its population.

The Update

The Phénoclim project has been a great success and research will always be ongoing. The team have gathered data from 60 temperature stations in 3 countries, representing 4 mountain massifs (the Alps, the Jura, the Mont Blanc Central Massif and les Vosges). 41 schools, 56 private individuals and 47 associated bodies have been involved in taking measurements and observing plant life in specific locations. Comparison data from the last 5 years has now been published. As volunteers and popularity of this project increases, so the project is looking to expand the mountainous territories it covers and possibly look at the effects of the changing seasons on the local bird, insect and other wildlife.