Anglia Ruskin University

File(s) not publicly available

Phenological mismatch with abiotic conditions—implications for flowering in Arctic plants

journal contribution
posted on 2023-07-26, 14:26 authored by Helen C. Wheeler, Toke T. Høye, Niels M. Schmidt, Jens-Christian Svenning, Mads C. Forchhammer
Although many studies have examined the phenological mismatches between interacting organisms, few have addressed the potential for mismatches between phenology and seasonal weather conditions. In the Arctic, rapid phenological changes in many taxa are occurring in association with earlier snowmelt. The timing of snowmelt is jointly affected by the size of the late winter snowpack and the temperature during the spring thaw. Increased winter snowpack results in delayed snowmelt, whereas higher air temperatures and faster snowmelt advance the timing of snowmelt. Where interannual variation in snowpack is substantial, changes in the timing of snowmelt can be largely uncoupled from changes in air temperature. Using detailed, long‐term data on the flowering phenology of four arctic plant species from Zackenberg, Greenland, we investigate whether there is a phenological component to the temperature conditions experienced prior to and during flowering. In particular, we assess the role of timing of flowering in determining pre‐flowering exposure to freezing temperatures and to the temperatures experienced prior to flowering. We then examine the implications of flowering phenology for flower abundance. Earlier snowmelt resulted in greater exposure to freezing conditions, suggesting an increased potential for a mismatch between the timing of flowering and seasonal weather conditions and an increased potential for negative consequences, such as freezing damage. We also found a parabolic relationship between the timing of flowering and the temperature experienced during flowering after taking interannual temperature effects into account. If timing of flowering advances to a cooler period of the growing season, this may moderate the effects of a general warming trend across years. Flower abundance was quadratically associated with the timing of flowering, such that both early and late flowering led to lower flower abundance than did intermediate flowering. Our results indicate that shifting the timing of flowering affects the temperature experienced during flower development and flowering beyond that imposed by interannual variations in climate. We also found that phenological timing may affect flower abundance, and hence, fitness. These findings suggest that plant population responses to future climate change will be shaped not only by extrinsic climate forcing, but also by species' phenological responses.



  • Yes



Issue number


Page range


Publication title







  • other

Legacy posted date


Legacy Faculty/School/Department

ARCHIVED Faculty of Science & Technology (until September 2018)