, 40:600 | Cite as

Assessment of Biological and Environmental Phenology at a Landscape Level from 30 Years of Fixed-Date Repeat Photography in Northern Sweden

  • Christopher Andrews
  • Jan Dick
  • Christer Jonasson
  • Terry Callaghan


A 30-year series (1978–2007) of photographic records were analysed to determine changes in lake ice cover, local (low elevation) and montane (high elevation) snow cover and phenological stages of mountain birch (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii) at the Abisko Scientific Research Station, Sweden. In most cases, the photographic-derived data showed no significant difference in phenophase score from manually observed field records from the same period, demonstrating the accuracy and potential of using weekly repeat photography as a quicker, cheaper and more adaptable tool to remotely study phenology in both biological and physical systems. Overall, increases in ambient temperatures coupled with decreases in winter ice and snow cover, and earlier occurrence of birch foliage, signal a reduction in the length of winter, a shift towards earlier springs and an increase in the length of available growing season in the Swedish sub-arctic.


Lake ice Phenophase Mountain birch Snow cover Swedish sub-arctic 



This project was developed under the auspices of SCANNET (, through collaboration with the IPY ‘Back-to-the-future’ project and INTERACT (FP7 Infrastructure fund). The first author offers thanks to the Abisko Scientific Research Station for providing access to their photographic archives and phenological/meteorological data, and especially to Annika Kristoffersson for her technical assistance whilst in Abisko. Further thanks go to Nils Åke Andersson for providing translations and supporting information for birch phenological records, and to the Natural Environment Research Council for providing the travel grant to conduct this study.

Supplementary material

13280_2011_167_MOESM1_ESM.doc (38 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 37 kb)


  1. Aerts, R., J.H.C. Cornelissen, and E. Dorrepaal. 2006. Plant performance in a warmer world: General responses of plants from cold, northern biomes and the importance of winter and spring events. Plant Ecology 182: 65–77.Google Scholar
  2. Badeck, F.W., A. Bondeau, K. Bottcher, D. Doktor, W. Lucht, J. Schaber, and S. Sitch. 2004. Responses of spring phenology to climate change. New Phytologist 162: 295–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blenckner, T., M. Jarvinen, and G.A. Weyhenmeyer. 2004. Atmospheric circulation and its impact on ice phenology in Scandinavia. Boreal Environment Research 9: 371–380.Google Scholar
  4. Bourgault, D. 2008. Shore-based photogrammetry of river ice. Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering 35: 80–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Callaghan, T.V., F. Bergholm, T.R. Christensen, C. Jonasson, U. Kokfelt, and M. Johansson. 2010. A new climate era in the sub-Arctic: Accelerating climate changes and multiple impacts. Geophysical Research Letters 37.Google Scholar
  6. Callaghan, T.V., T.R. Christensen, and E.J. Jantze. 2011. Plant and vegetation dynamics on Disko Island, West Greenland: Snapshots separated by over 40 years. Ambio. doi: 10.1007/s13280-011-0169-x.
  7. Callaway, R.M., R.W. Brooker, P. Choler, Z. Kikvidze, C.J. Lortie, R. Michalet, L. Paolini, F.I. Pugnaire, et al. 2002. Positive interactions among alpine plants increase with stress. Nature 417: 844–848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cannell, M.G.R., and R.I. Smith. 1983. Thermal time, chill days and prediction of budburst in Picea sitchensis. Journal of Applied Ecology 20: 951–963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cayan, D.R., S.A. Kammerdiener, M.D. Dettinger, J.M. Caprio, and D.H. Peterson. 2001. Changes in the onset of spring in the western United States. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 82: 399–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Christiansen, H.H. 2001. Snow-cover depth, distribution and duration data from northeast Greenland obtained by continuous automatic digital photography. In Annals of Glaciology, ed. K. Hutter, vol. 32. Cambridge: International Glaciological Society.Google Scholar
  11. Crimmins, M.A., and T.M. Crimmins. 2008. Monitoring plant phenology using digital repeat photography. Environmental Management 41: 949–958.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Darmody, R.G., C.E. Thorn, P. Schlyter, and J.C. Dixon. 2004. Relationship of vegetation distribution to soil properties in Karkevagge, Swedish Lapland. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 36: 21–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dunne, J.A., J. Harte, and K.J. Taylor. 2003. Subalpine meadow flowering phenology responses to climate change: Integrating experimental and gradient methods. Ecological Monographs 73: 69–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frich, P., L.V. Alexander, P. Della-Marta, B. Gleason, M. Haylock, A.M.G. Klein Tank, and T. Peterson. 2002. Observed coherent changes in climatic extremes during the 2nd half of the 20th century. Climate Research 19: 193–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Galen, C., and M.L. Stanton. 1995. Responses of snowbed plant-species to changes in growing-season length. Ecology 76: 1546–1557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hinkler, J., S.B. Pedersen, M. Rasch, and B.U. Hansen. 2002. Automatic snow cover monitoring at high temporal and spatial resolution, using images taken by a standard digital camera. International Journal of Remote Sensing 23: 4669–4682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Karlsen, S.R., K.A. Hogda, F.E. Wielgolaski, A. Tolvanen, H. Tommervik, J. Poikolainen, and E. Kubin. 2009. Growing-season trends in Fennoscandia 1982–2006, determined from satellite and phenology data. Climate Research 39: 275–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Karlsson, P.S., H. Bylund, S. Neuvonen, S. Heino, and M. Tjus. 2003. Climatic response of budburst in the mountain birch at two areas in northern Fennoscandia and possible responses to global change. Ecography 26: 617–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kohler, J., and R. Aanes. 2004. Effect of winter snow and ground-icing on a Svalbard reindeer population: Results of a simple snowpack model. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 36: 333–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kohler, J., O. Brandt, M. Johansson, and T. Callaghan. 2006. A long-term Arctic snow depth record from Abisko, northern Sweden, 1913–2004. Polar Research 25: 91–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kudo, G., U. Nordenhall, and U. Molau. 1999. Effects of snowmelt timing on leaf traits, leaf production, and shoot growth of alpine plants: Comparisons along a snowmelt gradient in Northern Sweden. Ecoscience 6: 439–450.Google Scholar
  22. Magurran, A.E., S.R. Baillie, S.T. Buckland, J. Dick, D.A. Elston, E.M. Scott, R.I. Smith, P.J. Somerfield, et al. 2010. Long-term datasets in biodiversity research and monitoring: Assessing change in ecological communities through time. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 25: 574–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Myking, T., and O.M. Heide. 1995. Dormancy releases and chilling requirements of buds of latitudinal ecotypes of Betula pendula and B. pubescens. Tree Physiology 15: 697–704.Google Scholar
  24. Partanen, J., and E. Beuker. 1999. Effects of photoperiod and thermal time on the growth rhythm of Pinus sylvestris seedlings. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 14: 487–497.Google Scholar
  25. Penuelas, J., and I. Filella. 2001. Phenology—responses to a warming world. Science 294: 793–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pettorelli, N., A. Mysterud, N.G. Yoccoz, R. Langvatn, and N.C. Stenseth. 2005. Importance of climatological downscaling and plant phenology for red deer in heterogeneous landscapes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 272: 2357–2364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rummukainen, M., J. Raisanen, B. Bringfelt., A. Ullerstig, A. Omstedt, U. Willen, U. Hansson, and C. Jones. 2001. A regional climate model for northern Europe: Model description and results from the downscaling of two GCM control simulations. Climate Dynamics 17: 339–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schwartz, M.D., and B.E. Reiter. 2000. Changes in North American spring. International Journal of Climatology 20: 929–932.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Scott, P.A., and W.R. Rouse. 1995. Impacts of increased winter snow cover on upland tundra vegetation—a case example. Climate Research 5: 25–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Shutova, E., F.E. Wielgolaski, S.R. Karlsen, O. Makarova, N. Berlina, T. Filimonova, E. Haraldsson, P.E. Aspholm, et al. 2006. Growing seasons of Nordic mountain birch in northernmost Europe as indicated by long-term field studies and analyses of satellite images. International Journal of Biometeorology 51: 155–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sokratov, S.A., and R.G. Barry. 2002. Intraseasonal variation in the thermoinsulation effect of snow cover on soil temperatures and energy balance. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres 107: 6.Google Scholar
  32. Sparks, T.H., K. Huber, and P.J. Croxton. 2006. Plant development scores from fixed-date photographs: The influence of weather variables and recorder experience. International Journal of Biometeorology 50: 275–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tenow, O., H. Bylund, and B. Holmgren. 2001. Impact on mountain birch forests in the past and the future of outbreaks of two geometrid insects. In Nordic Mountain birch ecosystems, ed. F.E. Wielgolaski, New York: Parthenon Publishing.Google Scholar
  34. Walker, M.D., R.C. Ingersoll, and P.J. Webber. 1995. Effects of interannual climate variation on phenology and growth of 2 alpine forbs. Ecology 76: 1067–1083.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Walther, G.R., E. Post, P. Convey, A. Menzel, C. Parmesan, T.J.C. Beebee, J.M. Fromentin, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, et al. 2002. Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature 416: 389–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Weyhenmeyer, G.A., M. Meili, and D.M. Livingstone. 2004. Nonlinear temperature response of lake ice breakup. Geophysical Research Letters 31: 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wielgolaski, F.E. 2001. Phenological modifications in plants by various edaphic factors. International Journal of Biometeorology 45: 196–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wipf, S., C. Rixen, M. Fischer, B. Schmid, and V. Stoeckli. 2005. Effects of ski piste preparation on alpine vegetation. Journal Applied Ecology 42: 306–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wipf, S., C. Rixen, and C.P.H. Mulder. 2006. Advanced snowmelt causes shift towards positive neighbour interactions in a subarctic tundra community. Global Change Biology 12: 1496–1506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wipf, S., V. Stoeckli, and P. Bebi. 2009. Winter climate change in alpine tundra: Plant responses to changes in snow depth and snowmelt timing. Climatic Change 94: 105–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Andrews
    • 1
  • Jan Dick
    • 1
  • Christer Jonasson
    • 2
  • Terry Callaghan
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Ecology & HydrologyPenicuikUK
  2. 2.Royal Swedish Academy of SciencesStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

Personalised recommendations