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Plant phenology

Indicator Specification Created 11 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 09 Nov 2012, 10:35 AM
Note: new version is available!
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Update planned for November 2012


Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Justification for indicator selection

Phenology is the study of changes in the timing of seasonal events such as budburst, flowering, dormancy, migration and hibernation. Some phenological responses are triggered principally by temperature, while others are more responsive to day length (Menzel et al., 2006). Changes in phenology are linked with the growing season and affect ecosystem functioning and productivity. Farming, forestry and gardening, as well as wildlife, are affected. The timing of tilling, sowing and harvesting is changing, fruit is ripening earlier due to warmer summers (Menzel et al., 2006), and grass in municipal parks and on road verges requires cutting more frequently and for longer.
Changes in flowering have implications for the timing and intensity of the pollen season; this is showing an advancing trend as many species start to flower earlier. Allied to this, the concentration of pollen in the air is increasing (Nordic Council, 2005).

Scientific references:

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

  • Phenological sensitivity to temperature changes
  • Oak (Quercus sp) leafing date in Surrey (United Kingdom) 1950-2008


Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Hans-Martin Füssel


Joint Research Centre (JRC)
European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 023
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change


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DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Related content

Data references used

European phenological data platform for climatological applications European phenological data platform for climatological applications COST action 725 ‘Establishing a European phenological data platform for climatological applications’ comprising all phenological records digitally available at present. It included entire phenological networks of 11 countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Russia (provided by the 5FP project POSITIVE)), five specialists networks (Finland, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom) and the network of the International Phenological Gardens in Europe (http://www.agrar.huberlin. de/pflanzenbau/agrarmet/ipg_en.html), spreading over 14 countries including, in addition to countries named above, Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Ireland and Macedonia. In total, phenological trends of 542 plant species in 21 countries (125 628 time series) and 19 animal species in three countries (301 time series) were analysed. The phenophases of wild plants, fruit trees and agricultural crops were assigned to a BBCH (Biologische Bundesanstalt, Bundessortenamt and CHemical Industry) code (Meier, 1997) and grouped either by BBCH code or BBCH subgroups (principal growth stages). If applicable, agricultural and natural phases were treated separately. Annual mean onset dates for nine countries (Austria, Belarus/northern Russia, Estonia, Czech Republic,Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine/southern Russia), comprising 254 records (phenophases countries) of 101 years, however, mostly covering the total period 1951–1999, were available for the quantitative assessment of temperature responses.  

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