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Region-specific phenological sensitivities and rates of climate warming generate divergent temporal shifts in flowering date across a species' range.

  • Author(s): Love, Natalie LR;
  • Mazer, Susan J
  • et al.

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Forecasting how species will respond phenologically to future changes in climate is a major challenge. Many studies have focused on estimating species- and community-wide phenological sensitivities to climate to make such predictions, but sensitivities may vary within species, which could result in divergent phenological responses to climate change.


We used 743 herbarium specimens of the mountain jewelflower (Streptanthus tortuosus, Brassicaceae) collected over 112 years to investigate whether individuals sampled from relatively warm vs. cool regions differ in their sensitivity to climate and whether this difference has resulted in divergent phenological shifts in response to climate warming.


During the past century, individuals sampled from warm regions exhibited a 20-day advancement in flowering date; individuals in cool regions showed no evidence of a shift. We evaluated two potential drivers of these divergent responses: differences between regions in (1) the degree of phenological sensitivity to climate and (2) the magnitude of climate change experienced by plants, or (3) both. Plants sampled from warm regions were more sensitive to temperature-related variables and were subjected to a greater degree of climate warming than those from cool regions; thus our results suggest that the greater temporal shift in flowering date in warm regions is driven by both of these factors.


Our results are among the first to demonstrate that species exhibited intraspecific variation in sensitivity to climate and that this variation can contribute to divergent responses to climate change. Future studies attempting to forecast temporal shifts in phenology should consider intraspecific variation.

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