Climate change is advancing spring onset across the U.S. national park system
Many U.S. national parks are already at the extreme warm end of their historical temperature distributions. With rapidly warming conditions, park resource management will be enhanced by information on seasonality of climate that supports adjustments in the timing of activities such as treating invasive species, operating visitor facilities, and scheduling climate-related events (e.g., flower festivals and fall leaf-viewing). Seasonal changes in vegetation, such as pollen, seed, and fruit production, are important drivers of ecological processes in parks, and phenology has thus been identified as a key indicator for park monitoring. Phenology is also one of the most proximate biological responses to climate change. Here, we use estimates of start of spring based on climatically modeled dates of first leaf and first bloom derived from indicator plant species to evaluate the recent timing of spring onset (past 10–30 yr) in each U.S. natural resource park relative to its historical range of variability across the past 112 yr (1901–2012).