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Melibee Project and Project BrownDown

Melibee ProjectWhat happens when a new plant species comes into an area, and it is more attractive to pollinators than anything else around? Does it improve pollination of the native plants that are already there? Or does it lure away pollinators, or lead to the delivery of the wrong kind of pollen? We are asking these types of questions following the arrival of a non-native plant, white sweetclover (Melilotus albus) in habitats in interior Alaska. Watch the video below to find out why we need your help.

We are particularly concerned about the impact on two of our favorite berry species: bog blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum) and lowbush cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea, also known as lingonberry). These plants are prized by many, but particularly important components of subsistence lifestyles practiced across Alaska. Sweetclover has been expanding rapidly across the state, and is considered to be an invasive species. The native berry species and the invasive plant share pollinators such as native bumblebees, solitary bees, and syrphid flies. These plant species also share habitats, such as the relatively open habitat created following a fire.

The goal of our project is to figure out what the overall impact of sweetclover is on the production of blueberry and cranberry fruits and seeds, and why. We expect impacts to depend, in part, on where in the state these plant species coexist, because in some places there is a lot of overlap in the time periods during which the native and invasive plants flower, and in some places there is not. Since sweetclover is still expanding and is likely to soon reach many villages that are off the road system and currently not invaded, we are also concerned with predicting where impacts are likely to be particularly large. This is where we need your help! Citizen science volunteers can make observations phenology (timing of flowering/fruiting) observations of sweetclover and our berry plants to identify parts of Alaska where the overlap in flowering time is greatest.
Our Research website describes the questions we are asking, the methods we use for answering them, and our early results.

Project Browndown logoWhile monitoring for the Melibee Project, citizen scientists all over Alaska began to notice how the leaves of the invasive plants they were watching were staying green much longer into the fall than the leaves of the native plants around them. This led to a new set of questions that we can answer by tracking native and invasive plant phenology around Alaska. Could invasive plants be taking better advantage of changes in growing season length and variability associated with climate change compared to the native plants?  What might the impacts be in the arctic and boreal regions where the effects of climate change are strong and where invasive species are spreading at an increasing rate? Project BrownDown observations can contribute to the Melibee Project data and answer the new questions at the same time, or can be on one of the other invasive and native plants that we are interested in. Learn more about this new and evolving research at the Project BrownDown website.

Data for both the Melibee Project and Project BrownDown can be submitted or viewed using the links below.

Archived data posting method:


Reports, Graphs and Maps

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