Phenology is an important part of the life cycle of many species, including plants. It could be simply explained as the seasonal timing of certain events in the plant’s life cycle. Phenological events include things such as dormancy times and blooming/growth times. The timing of phases in a plant’s life cycle are directly affected by abiotic factors such as temperature, rainfall, and day length. Phenological events are intimately linked to temperature, as temperature strongly influences the timing of things such as development, and acts a general indicator for the timing of many event. Therefore as climate change continues to occur, the timing of these events continues to shift accordingly.
Research has shown that spring on a global scale has advanced between 21.-5.3 days per decade (although this number differs between plant species). Consequences that come with an advanced spring arrival include changes in timing and distribution (diseases, dispersal, pests), and changes in plant composition (overall richness and abundance). Over the past 30 years, studies show that the global average surface temperatures have increased at a rate of roughly 0.2°C per decade. . As Earth’s temperature continues to rise (as predicted), it becomes warmer earlier in the spring and stays warmer later into the fall. Monitoring plants’ response to climate change (in terms of their phenology) involves measuring budding times, flowering times, when the leaves drop and so on. Researchers all over the globe, have observed shifting phenology in plants, at multiple scales. It’s been estimated that in areas of the tropics, that already have high temperatures, plant phenology there would likely be more influenced by a shift in precipitation.
Why is a change in phenology bad?
Consequences that come with an advanced spring arrival include changes in timing and distribution (diseases, dispersal, pests), and changes in plant composition (overall richness and abundance). Changes in the timing of one part of the ecosystem can have a ripple effects that disrupts other interactions within the ecosystem; especially if the other interacting species in the ecosystem aren’t also caught up with this shift in phenology. For example, changes in flowering time would ultimately affect pollinator species; which in turn will further affect plant species richness and abundance.
It is evident that modern climate change is induced by anthropgenic causes, mainly our greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore it is important that we consider the effects of our green house has emissions that our contributing to, and accelerating climate change. A continued change in plant phenology will have a continuous domino type effect on its entire ecosystem.