Warmer temperatures are accelerating the phenology of organisms around the world. Temperature sensitivity of phenology might be greater in colder, higher-latitude sites than in warmer regions, in part because small changes in temperature constitute greater relative changes in thermal balance at colder sites. To test this hypothesis, we examined up to 20 years of phenology data for 47 tundra plant species at 18 high-latitude sites along a climatic gradient. Across all species, the timing of leaf emergence and flowering were more sensitive to a given increase in summer temperature at colder than warmer high-latitude locations. A similar pattern was seen over time for the flowering phenology of a widespread species, Cassiope tetragona. These are among the first results highlighting differential phenological responses of plants across a climatic gradient, and suggest the possibility of convergence in flowering times and therefore an increase in gene flow across latitudes as the climate warms. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Herbarium specimens are increasingly used in phenological studies. However, natural history collections can have biases that influence the analysis of phenological events. Arctic environments, where remoteness and cold climate govern collection logistics, may give rise to unique or pronounced biases.
We assessed the presence of biases in time, space, phenological events, collectors, taxonomy, and plant traits across Nunavut using herbarium specimens accessioned at the National Herbarium of Canada (CAN).
We found periods of high and low collection that corresponded to societal and institutional events; greater collection density close to common points of air and sea access; and preferences to collect plants at the flowering phase and in peak flower, and to collect particular taxa, flower colours, growth forms, and plant heights. One-quarter of collectors contributed 90% of the collection.
Collections influenced by temporal and spatial biases have the potential to misrepresent phenology across space and time, whereas those shaped by the interests of collectors or the tendency to favour particular phenological stages, taxa, and plant traits could give rise to imbalanced phenological comparisons. Underlying collection patterns may vary among regions and institutions. To guide phenological analyses, we recommend routine assessment of any herbarium data set prior to its use.
The pace of climate change in the Arctic is dramatic, with temperatures rising at a rate double the global average. The timing of flowering and fruiting (phenology) is often temperature dependent and tends to advance as the climate warms. Herbarium specimens, photographs, and field observations can provide historical phenology records and have been used, on a localised scale, to predict species' phenological sensitivity to climate change. Conducting similar localised studies in the Canadian Arctic, however, poses a challenge where the collection of herbarium specimens, photographs, and field observations have been temporally and spatially sporadic. We used flowering and seed dispersal times of 23 Arctic species from herbarium specimens, photographs, and field observations collected from across the 2.1?million km(2) area of Nunavut, Canada, to determine (1) which monthly temperatures influence flowering and seed dispersal times; (2) species' phenological sensitivity to temperature; and (3) whether flowering or seed dispersal times have advanced over the past 120?years. We tested this at different spatial scales and compared the sensitivity in different regions of Nunavut. Broadly speaking, this research serves as a proof of concept to assess whether phenology-climate change studies using historic data can be conducted at large spatial scales. Flowering times and seed dispersal time were most strongly correlated with June and July temperatures, respectively. Seed dispersal times have advanced at double the rate of flowering times over the past 120?years, reflecting greater late-summer temperature rises in Nunavut. There is great diversity in the flowering time sensitivity to temperature of Arctic plant species, suggesting climate change implications for Arctic ecological communities, including altered community composition, competition, and pollinator interactions. Intraspecific temperature sensitivity and warming trends varied markedly across Nunavut and could result in greater changes in some parts of Nunavut than in others.
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