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Research article2019Peer reviewed

The forgotten season: the impact of autumn phenology on a specialist insect herbivore community on oak

Ekholm, Adam; Tack, Ayco J. M.; Bolmgren, Kjell; Roslin, Tomas


1. Variation in spring phenology - like tree budburst - affects the structure of insect communities, but impacts of autumn phenology have been neglected. Many plant species have recently delayed their autumn phenology, and the timing of leaf senescence may be important for herbivorous insects. 2. This study explored how an insect herbivore community associated with Quercus robur is influenced by variation in autumn phenology. For this, schools were asked to record, across the range of oak in Sweden, the autumn phenology of oaks and to conduct a survey of the insect community. 3. To tease apart the relative impacts of climate from that of tree phenology, regional tree phenology was first modelled as a function of regional climate, and the tree-specific deviation from this relationship was then used as the metric of relative tree-specific phenology. 4. At the regional scale, a warmer climate postponed oak leaf senescence. This was also reflected in the insect herbivore community: six out of 15 taxa occurred at a higher incidence and five out of 18 taxa were more abundant, in locations with a warmerclimate. Similarly, taxonomic richness and herbivory were higher in warmer locations. 5. Trees with a relatively late autumn phenology had higher abundances of leaf miners (Phyllonorycter spp.). This caused lower community diversity and evenness on trees with later autumn phenology. 6. The findings of the present study illustrate that both regional climate-driven patterns and local variation in oak autumn phenology contribute to shaping the insect herbivore community. Community patterns may thus shift with a changing climate.


Citizen science; climate change; community ecology; phenology; spatial ecology; temporal ecology

Published in

Ecological Entomology
2019, Volume: 44, number: 3, pages: 425-435
Publisher: WILEY

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