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Arizona hiker tracks climate change

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Michelle Nijhuis | Feb 10, 2009 11:21 AM

Cool (so to speak) new study just published by researchers at the University of Arizona: Using records collected by an amateur naturalist and habitual hiker named Dave Bertelsen, scientists found that in the Santa Catalina Mountains on the edge of Tucson, the flowering ranges of 93 plant species moved uphill between 1994 to 2003. Average summer temperatures in the region rose 1.8 degrees F over the same period -- so, while no one can say for sure, these findings certainly look like a fingerprint of human-caused climate change.

Bertelsen has been hiking the same trail in the Catalinas once or twice a week since 1983 ("If I miss a week, I miss it," he says). Theresa Crimmins, one of the study authors, works with the National Phenology Network, a new organization dedicated to monitoring climate-induced changes in phenology -- flowering, migration, and other regular events in the lives of plants and animals. They hope to promote more such collaborations between naturalists and pedigreed researchers.

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