The objectives of this Statement of Need (SON) were to improve our fundamental and applied understanding of how: (1) phenology1 of specific plant and animal species on Department of Defense (DoD) installations in the United States (U.S.) and its territories responds to abiotic features of the environment and how these responses may change under non-stationary climate conditions; (2) changes in phenology will affect key interactions involving species of management concern to DoD resource managers; and (3) these combined effects influence conservation and management challenges associated with affected species of concern. Specific research needs include improving our understanding of the following:
Proposals submitted in response to this SON may address one or more of the research needs listed above. Species of interest include terrestrial, freshwater aquatic, and near-shore marine species for which DoD has management responsibilities. Proposals should demonstrate an understanding of the appropriate use and limitations of available climate information.
1 Study of periodic plant and animal life-cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in abiotic features such as climate, light, and elevation.
The DoD manages a broad range of ecosystems covering millions of acres on installations across the U.S. and its territories. Research conducted under this SON is intended to yield an improved understanding of how potential changes in abiotic features in a non-stationary world could cause changes in plant and animal populations and distributions of management concern to DoD resource managers. An understanding of the underlying causes of variation in phenological shifts will contribute to an understanding of the biological effects of climate change on phenology and species interactions and ultimately their implications for species conservation and management under a changing climate.
Plants and animals respond to abiotic features of their environment in ways that determine the timing of specific life-cycle events, such as migration, flowering, and hibernation. These features can include climatic factors that may change inter-annually or seasonal changes in light duration. Key phenological relationships have developed over evolutionary time and can be rigidly fixed and exhibit explicit thresholds or show plasticity in responses that are not tightly tied to the environmental cue. Important species interactions are based on a shared phenology that also has evolved over time based on individual species fitness.
A changing climate can alter an individual species’ phenology and its interactions with other species that are determined by phenology; indeed, recent shifts in the phenology of numerous plant and animal species have provided powerful evidence of an already changing climate. Rapid shifts in phenology under a changing climate could (1) adversely alter the timing of a species’ response to an environmental cue that now puts it at a survival and fitness disadvantage (e.g., an animal terminates hibernation prior to adequate food supplies being available) and (2) alter the timing of key interactions between species that may respond differently to the new signal (e.g., butterfly larvae emerge before their host food plants are available). The rapidity of the shift may determine if species and their interactions will have adequate time to adapt behaviorally or physiologically in the short-term versus evolutionarily in the long-term to the new conditions.
The cost and time to meet the requirements of this SON were at the discretion of the proposer. Two options were available:
Standard Proposals: These proposals describe a complete research effort. The proposer incorporated the appropriate time, schedule, and cost requirements to accomplish the scope of work proposed. SERDP projects normally run from two to five years in length and vary considerably in cost consistent with the scope of the effort. It is expected that most proposals will fall into this category.
Limited Scope Proposals: Proposers with innovative approaches to the SON that entail high technical risk or have minimal supporting data may submit a Limited Scope Proposal for funding of up to $200,000 over approximately one year. Such proposals may be eligible for follow-on funding if they result in a successful initial project. The objective of these proposals was to acquire the data necessary to demonstrate proof-of-concept or reduction of risk that will lead to development of a future Standard Proposal. Proposers submitted Limited Scope Proposals in accordance with the SERDP Core Solicitation instructions and deadlines.