Detecting change in an Australian flowering record: Comparisons of linear regression and cumulative sum analysis change point analysis



Linear regression and cumulative sum analysis (CUSUM) change point analyses were used to determine whether there had been a significant change in the first flowering date between 1983 and 2006 for 65 species. Both methods agreed that the first flowering date of 47 species did not change and that eight species had a significant change (P < 0.05) in their flowering. Three species shifted to later flowering and five species to earlier. Over the observation period, each method found that the average shift to later flowering was greater (37.4 days or approx. 1.56 days per year for CUSUM change point analysis and 51.4 days or 2.14 days per year for linear regression) than that to earlier flowering (28.4 days or approx. 1.20 days per year for change point analysis and 46.5 days or 1.97 days per year for linear regression). For the remaining 10 species the results of linear regression and change point methods differed. Each method found five species (three earlier flowering and two later) to have a significantly changed first flowering date over their observation period, where the other method did not. Some of these differences can be attributed to the fact that the CUSUM method can detect multiple change points whereas linear regression can not. Significant change points in first flowering date were identified for 13 species between the years 1987 to 1998. The most frequent year identified as a change point year was 1995. The two methods, although not interchangeable, had strong agreement (84.6%) in detecting shifts. This gives greater confidence that a change in flowering has occurred for eight species and equally importantly, that no change in first flowering date has occurred for 47 species.