, Volume 173, Issue 3, pp 1043–1052 | Cite as

Disentangling climate change effects on species interactions: effects of temperature, phenological shifts, and body size

Community ecology - Original research


Climate-mediated shifts in species’ phenologies are expected to alter species interactions, but predicting the consequences of this is difficult because phenological shifts may be driven by different climate factors that may or may not be correlated. Temperature could be an important factor determining effects of phenological shifts by altering species’ growth rates and thereby the relative size ratios of interacting species. We tested this hypothesis by independently manipulating temperature and the relative hatching phenologies of two competing amphibian species. Relative shifts in hatching time generally altered the strength of competition, but the presence and magnitude of this effect was temperature dependent and joint effects of temperature and hatching phenology were non-additive. Species that hatched relatively early or late performed significantly better or worse, respectively, but only at higher temperatures and not at lower temperatures. As a consequence, climate-mediated shifts in hatching phenology or temperature resulted in stronger or weaker effects than expected when both factors acted in concert. Furthermore, consequences of phenological shifts were asymmetric; arriving relatively early had disproportional stronger (or weaker) effects than arriving relatively late, and this varied with species identity. However, consistent with recent theory, these seemingly idiosyncratic effects of phenological shifts could be explained by species-specific differences in growth rates across temperatures and concordant shifts in relative body size of interacting species. Our results emphasize the need to account for environmental conditions when predicting the effects of phenological shifts, and suggest that shifts in size-structured interactions can mediate the impact of climate change on natural communities.


Phenology ontogeny landscape Competition Amphibian Priority effect Seasonal community dynamics 



We thank A. E. Dunham and N. Rasmussen for thoughtful discussion of this study and L. Yang, R. Alford and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on earlier version of the manuscript. This work was partly supported by NSF DEB-0841686 to V. H. W. R.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyRice UniversityHoustonUSA

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