International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 805–817 | Cite as

A review of climate-driven mismatches between interdependent phenophases in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems

  • Alison DonnellyEmail author
  • Amelia Caffarra
  • Bridget F. O’Neill
Original Paper


Mismatches in phenology between mutually dependent species, resulting from climate change, can have far-reaching consequences throughout an ecosystem at both higher and lower trophic levels. Rising temperatures, due to climate warming, have resulted in advances in development and changes in behaviour of many organisms around the world. However, not all species or phenophases are responding to this increase in temperature at the same rate, thus creating a disruption to previously synchronised interdependent key life-cycle stages. Mismatches have been reported between plants and pollinators, predators and prey, and pests and hosts. Here, we review mismatches between interdependent phenophases at different trophic levels resulting from climate change. We categorized the studies into (1) terrestrial (natural and agricultural) ecosystems, and (2) aquatic (freshwater and marine) ecosystems. As expected, we found reports of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in each system, such as earlier emergence of prey enabling partial avoidance of predators, potential reductions in crop yield if herbivore pests emerge before their predators and possible declines in marine biodiversity due to disruption in plankton-fish phenologies. Furthermore, in the marine environment rising temperatures have resulted in synchrony in a previously mismatched prey and predator system, resulting in an abrupt population decline in the prey species. The examples reviewed suggest that more research into the complex interactions between species in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is necessary to make conclusive predictions of how climate warming may impact the fragile balances within ecosystems in future.


Phenology Terrestrial Marine Freshwater Agricultural ecosystems 



The Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded this work under the STRIVE programme, project number 2007-CCRP-2.4, Climate change impacts on phenology: implications for terrestrial ecosystems. The authors would like to express their gratitude to the reviewers for their helpful comments and thorough consideration, which greatly enhanced an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Donnelly
    • 1
    Email author
  • Amelia Caffarra
    • 1
    • 2
  • Bridget F. O’Neill
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for the Environment, School of Natural SciencesTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.Sustainable Agroecosystems and Bioresources, Research and Innovation CentreFondazione Edmund Mach, Instituto AgrarioTrentoItaly

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