Ecosystems on our planet are changing in response to global environmental change, and phenology —the timing of seasonal events in nature— is very sensitive to this change. But measuring the rate of this phenological change is difficult without continuous landscape monitoring in diverse biomes. The PhenoCam Network has contributed to this using a simple, affordable, and sustainable approach to landscape monitoring: digital repeat photography.
In our recent paper, we presented the PhenoCam Dataset V2.0, the latest release of a fully processed dataset derived from PhenoCam imagery. In the paper, we have explained the technical details about how we have assembled, quality checked, and curated the dataset. We presented an extensive dataset of about 1800 site-years of phenological data derived from nearly 400 digital cameras, situated from tropics to tundra across a wide range of plant functional types, biomes, and climates. This effort was only made possible because of a collaborative open-data, open-source and open-science approach from the PhenoCam Network.
Distribution of PhenoCams across the global vegetation biomes defined by the Whittaker classification. All main global biomes are represented in the network.
PhenoCam Network as an Open-Data Platform
The PhenoCam Network was established in 2008 with a goal to focus on the phenology of terrestrial ecosystems of North America. To date, there are more than 630 cameras around the world (90% in North America) that take and upload digital images of the landscape at high frequency (e.g. every 15 or 30 minutes) to our server. In addition to the 127 cameras located at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) sites, 65 cameras at the Long-Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) sites, and 29 cameras at the Department of Energy’s Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) chambers, most of the cameras are run by hundreds of collaborators across the globe who share their images with the community as part of our network. For example, 227 cameras have been deployed at AmeriFlux sites, and researchers from each site are actively engaged as collaborators on the PhenoCam project. The entire data archive including the Vegetation Phenology Dataset and the underlying Digital Camera Imagery are publicly available under a CC-BY license.
PhenoCam image from the camera at the SEGA Soap Creek site, near Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona.
Open-Source and Open Science Culture at the PhenoCam
Our team at the PhenoCam Network has also contributed to the open-source and open-science community by developing software, and offering technical workshops at scientific meeting. We have developed software applications for obtaining and processing the camera data, including the following R packages: phenocamapi, xROI, phenocamr, phenor and hazer. Using these open-source R packages, PhenoCam users will be able to quickly and easily obtain near real-time time-series data and process imagery on-the-fly to answer a wide range of science questions. To make these resources available to larger audience, we have organized and led training workshops at annual meetings for the American Geophysical Union, the Ecological Society of America, and AmeriFlux. For example, in a partnership with the NEON’s Science Education team, we developed educational materials and taught a diverse group of participants at AGU 2019 in Washington, DC, where the participants learned how to interact with the PhenoCam API, process images using xROI and model phenology using phenor.
Bijan Seyednasrollah is teaching the PhenoCam workshop at American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2019.
The PhenoCam Dataset V2.0 includes three times as much data as V1.0, with over 1800 site-years of data from almost 400 cameras. It is a major update since the last release, and offers great opportunities for studying the impacts of climate change and climate variability on terrestrial ecosystems.