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Assessing Future Changes to Spring Phenology and False Springs in the South Central United States

A South Central CASC FY19 - Direct Funding 2 Project
Principal Investigator
Adrienne Wootten


Release Date
Start Date
End Date


The onset of spring, represented by first leaf and first bloom, is a critical indicator of the health and growth of ecosystems. Studies have shown that the timing of first leaf and first bloom has shifted to earlier in the year across the U.S., impacting species that time their own life history events based on spring onset. False springs occur when temperatures briefly warm and “trick” plants into opening their buds, only to be followed by a hard freeze that can kill the young, sensitive buds. These events can cause significant damage to ecosystems as well as agriculture. For example, a false spring in the Southeast in 2007 caused $2 billion in damage to crops. Some projections of future climate conditions have shown that the occurrence [...]

Child Items (3)


Principal Investigator :
Adrienne Wootten
Collaborator :
Keith Dixon
Funding Agency :
South Central CASC
CMS Group :
Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC) Program

Attached Files

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“Dolan Falls. Credit: Alan Cressler”
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Project Extension

typeTechnical Summary
valueThe onset of spring growth (indicated by first leaf and first bloom) is a critical indicator of the health and change in ecosystems. In addition, false springs can cause significant damage to agriculture and ecosystems. Recent studies have shown that first leaf and first bloom are occurring earlier in the year and false springs are occurring less frequently. Other studies suggest that first leaf and first bloom will happen earlier in the year in the future and false springs may occur more frequently. Changes to the first leaf and first bloom can lead to phenology mismatches between species, incursion by invasive species, and effects to migratory patterns. In addition, false springs also cause numerous ecological impacts such as damage to plant tissue. Therefore, changes to first leaf, first bloom, and false springs are critical to understand for the continued management of ecosystems and species. However, prior studies have used only limited information from the climate projections to determine projected changes in all three of these ecologicallyrelevant indices. In addition, prior studies have used climate projections designed for use in regions outside the south-central United States. To fill the critical need, this pilot project will provide projections of first leaf, first bloom, and false springs using climate projections created specifically for the southcentral United States. In addition, this pilot project will provide recommendations to USGS regarding how sensitive these ecological indices are to the climate projections and appropriate use in the future. Available results and data from this project will inform ecologists with critical interest in spring phenology and false springs, improving impact assessments and adaptation decision making in the southcentral United States.
projectStatusIn Progress

Dolan Falls. Credit: Alan Cressler
Dolan Falls. Credit: Alan Cressler


Spatial Services

ScienceBase WMS


  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers
  • South Central CASC


Fiscal Year
Science Themes
Wildlife and Plants
CMS Themes
CMS Topics



Additional Information


Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC ff64677b-1fcc-4252-bdcc-ee20d4409408
StampID NCCWSC SC19-WC1896

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