Long-term herbarium records reveal temperature-dependent changes in flowering phenology in the southeastern USA
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In recent years, a growing body of evidence has emerged indicating that the relationship between flowering phenology and climate may differ throughout various portions of the growing season. These differences have resulted in long-term changes in flowering synchrony that may alter the quantity and diversity of pollinator attention to many species, as well as altering food availability to pollenivorous and nectarivorous animal species. However, long-term multi-season records of past flowering timing have primarily focused on temperate environments. In contrast, changes in flowering phenology within humid subtropical environments such as the southeastern USA remain poorly documented. This research uses herbarium-based methods to examine changes in flowering time across 19,328 samples of spring-, summer-, and autumn-flowering plants in the southeastern USA from the years 1951 to 2009. In this study, species that flower near the onset of the growing season were found to advance under increasing mean March temperatures (−3.391 days/°C, p = 0.022). No long-term advances in early spring flowering or spring temperature were detected during this period, corroborating previous phenological assessments for the southeastern USA. However, late spring through mid-summer flowering exhibited delays in response to higher February temperatures (over 0.1.85 days/°C, p ≤ 0.041 in all cases). Thus, it appears that flowering synchrony may undergo significant restructuring in response to warming spring temperatures, even in humid subtropical environments.
KeywordsPhenology Flowering Southeastern USA Herbarium Climate change
We would like to acknowledge the contributions of Dixie Damrel of the Clemson herbarium, John Nelson of the A. C. Moore herbarium at the University of South Carolina, and Austin Mast of the Florida State University herbarium for access to their records as well as Herrick Brown for assistance with herbarium database software and Gretchen Meyer and Alison Donnelly for advice that improved this manuscript.
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