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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Sensitivity of Spring Phenology to Warming Across Temporal and Spatial Climate Gradients in Two Independent Databases

Cook, Benjamin I.; Wolkovich, E.M.; Davies, T. J.; Ault, T. R.; Betancourt, J. L.; Allen, J.M.; Bolmgren, Kjell; Cleland, E. E.; Crimmins, T. M.; Kraft, N. J. B.; Lancaster, Lesley T.; Mazer, S. J.; McCabe, G. J.; McGill, B. J.; Parmesan, C.; Pau, S.; Regetz, J.; Salamin, Nicholas; Schwartz, M. D.; Travers, S. E.


Disparate ecological datasets are often organized into databases post hoc and then analyzed and interpreted in ways that may diverge from the purposes of the original data collections. Few studies, however, have attempted to quantify how biases inherent in these data (for example, species richness, replication, climate) affect their suitability for addressing broad scientific questions, especially in under-represented systems (for example, deserts, tropical forests) and wild communities. Here, we quantitatively compare the sensitivity of species first flowering and leafing dates to spring warmth in two phenological databases from the Northern Hemisphere. One-PEP725-has high replication within and across sites, but has low species diversity and spans a limited climate gradient. The other-NECTAR-includes many more species and a wider range of climates, but has fewer sites and low replication of species across sites. PEP725, despite low species diversity and relatively low seasonality, accurately captures the magnitude and seasonality of warming responses at climatically similar NECTAR sites, with most species showing earlier phenological events in response to warming. In NECTAR, the prevalence of temperature responders significantly declines with increasing mean annual temperature, a pattern that cannot be detected across the limited climate gradient spanned by the PEP725 flowering and leafing data. Our results showcase broad areas of agreement between the two databases, despite significant differences in species richness and geographic coverage, while also noting areas where including data across broader climate gradients may provide added value. Such comparisons help to identify gaps in our observations and knowledge base that can be addressed by ongoing monitoring and research efforts. Resolving these issues will be critical for improving predictions in understudied and under-sampled systems outside of the temperature seasonal mid-latitudes.


phenology; climate responders; NECTAR; PEP725; sensitivity; climate change

Published in

2012, volume: 15, number: 8, pages: 1283-1294
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Cook, Benjamin I.
Wolkovich, E.M.
University of California
Davies, T. J.
McGill University
Ault, T. R.
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Betancourt, J. L.
US Geological Survey (USGS)
Allen, J.M.
University of Connecticut
Bolmgren, Kjell
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Unit for Field-based Forest Research
Cleland, E. E.
University of California San Diego
Crimmins, T. M.
USA National Phenology Network
Kraft, N. J. B.
University of British Columbia
Lancaster, Lesley T.
Mazer, S. J.
University of California Santa Barbara
McCabe, G. J.
US Geological Survey (USGS)
McGill, B. J.
University of Maine
Parmesan, C.
University of Texas at Austin
Pau, S.
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)
Regetz, J.
Salamin, Nicholas
Schwartz, M. D.
University of Plymouth
Travers, S. E.
North Carolina State University (NC State)

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action

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Other Physics Topics
Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences

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