The importance of phylogeny to the study of phenological response to global climate change

Charles C. Davis, Charles G. Willis, Richard B. Primack, Abraham J. Miller-Rushing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Climate change has resulted in major changes in the phenology-i.e. the timing of seasonal activities, such as flowering and bird migration-of some species but not others. These differential responses have been shown to result in ecological mismatches that can have negative fitness consequences. However, the ways in which climate change has shaped changes in biodiversity within and across communities are not well understood. Here, we build on our previous results that established a link between plant species' phenological response to climate change and a phylogenetic bias in species' decline in the eastern United States. We extend a similar approach to plant and bird communities in the United States and the UK that further demonstrates that climate change has differentially impacted species based on their phylogenetic relatedness and shared phenological responses. In plants, phenological responses to climate change are often shared among closely related species (i.e. clades), even between geographically disjunct communities. And in some cases, this has resulted in a phylogenetically biased pattern of non-native species success. In birds, the pattern of decline is phylogenetically biased but is not solely explained by phenological response, which suggests that other traits may better explain this pattern. These results illustrate the ways in which phylogenetic thinking can aid in making generalizations of practical importance and enhance efforts to predict species' responses to future climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3202-3213
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1555
StatePublished - Oct 12 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Community ecology
  • Extinction
  • Invasive species
  • Phenology
  • Phylogeny


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