Nature's Delicate Balancing Act - Florida Climate Institute

201802usf-nature.jpgFebruary 5, 2018 (Source: USF) - Researchers at the University of South Florida have offered a deeper understanding of climate change effects on animal phenology in their study, "A global synthesis of animal phenological responses to climate change", published this week in Nature Climate Change.

By examining more than a thousand records of these phenological shifts dating back to the 1950s, the study revealed that various taxa, like insects, birds, amphibians and mammals, are shifting their seasonal activities at different rates in response to a changing climate.

“We found that cold-blooded species and those with small body sizes are shifting their phenological activities faster, or track changing climates more effectively, than warm-blooded or large-bodied species,” said the study’s lead author Jeremy Cohen, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the USF Department of Integrative Biology. “These differences could potentially cause mismatches between interacting species, such as migrating birds and their prey.”

The study also provides the first evidence that different locations have different drivers of climate change-induced phenological shifts. For example, at temperate latitudes, multidecadal trends in temperature were associated with phenological shifts, whereas at tropical latitudes, it was trends in precipitation. Jason Rohr, PhD, a USF professor and co-author of the study, explained that these patterns are sensible because seasonality is generally driven by temperature in temperate regions and rainfall in tropical regions.

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