Herbarium records are reliable sources of phenological change driven by climate and provide novel insights into species’ phenological cueing mechanisms

Charles C. Davis, Charles G. Willis, Bryan Connolly, Courtland Kelly, Aaron M. Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations

Abstract

PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Climate change has resulted in major changes in the phenology of some species but not others. Long-term field observational records provide the best assessment of these changes, but geographic and taxonomic biases limit their utility. Plant specimens in herbaria have been hypothesized to provide a wealth of additional data for studying phenological responses to climatic change. However, no study to our knowledge has comprehensively addressed whether herbarium data are accurate measures of phenological response and thus applicable to addressing such questions. METHODS: We compared flowering phenology determined from field observations (years 1852-1858, 1875, 1878-1908, 2003-2006, 2011-2013) and herbarium records (1852-2013) of 20 species from New England, United States. KEY RESULTS: Earliest flowering date estimated from herbarium records faithfully reflected field observations of first flowering date and substantially increased the sampling range across climatic conditions. Additionally, although most species demonstrated a response to interannual temperature variation, long-term temporal changes in phenological response were not detectable. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the use of herbarium records for understanding plant phenological responses to changes in temperature, and also importantly establish a new use of herbarium collections: inferring primary phenological cueing mechanisms of individual species (e.g., temperature, winter chilling, photoperiod). These latter data are lacking from most investigations of phenological change, but are vital for understanding differential responses of individual species to ongoing climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1599-1609
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Volume102
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Climate variability
  • Herbarium specimens
  • Museum collections
  • Phenology

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