Effective ecosystem functioning relies on successful species interaction. However, this delicate balance may be disrupted if species do not respond to environmental change at a similar rate. Here we examine trends in the timing of spring phenophases of groups of species occupying three trophic levels as a potential indicator of ecosystem response to climate warming in Ireland. The data sets were of varying length (1976–2009) and from varying locations: (1) timing of leaf unfolding and May Shoot of a range of broadleaf and conifer tree species, (2) first appearance dates of a range of moth species, and (3) first arrival dates of a range of spring migrant birds. All three groups revealed a statistically significant (P<0.01 and P<0.001) advance in spring phenology that was driven by rising spring temperature (P<0.05; 0.45 °C /decade). However, the rate of advance was greater for moths (1.8 days/year), followed by birds (0.37 days/year) and trees (0.29 days/year). In addition, the length of time between (1) moth emergence and leaf unfolding and (2) moth emergence and bird arrival decreased significantly (P<0.05 and P<0.001, respectively), indicating a decrease in the timing between food supply and demand. These differing trophic level response rates demonstrate the potential for a mismatch in the timing of interdependent phenophases as temperatures rise. Even though these data were not specifically collected to examine climate warming impacts, we conclude that such data may be used as an early warning indicator and as a means to monitor the potential for future ecosystem disruption to occur as climate warms.
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The authors are grateful to (1) Dr. Bridget O’Neill for providing the moth data, (2) Professor John O’Halloran for advice on bird phenology, and (3) Met Éireann for supplying the temperature data. In addition, we are particularly indebted to all participants in the various networks (Met Éireann (on behalf of the International Phenological Gardens); BirdWatch Ireland; Moths Ireland) for observing, collecting and making their phenological data available to us.
This paper is dedicated to the memory of Caoimhe Muldoon, an outstanding ecologist.
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Donnelly, A., Yu, R. & Liu, L. Trophic level responses differ as climate warms in Ireland. Int J Biometeorol 59, 1007–1017 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-014-0914-5
- Climate warming
- Trophic level