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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2014

A phylogenetic comparative study of flowering phenology along an elevational gradient in the Canadian subarctic

Lessard-Therrien, Malie; Davies, T. Jonathan; Bolmgren, Kjell

Abstract

Climate change is affecting high-altitude and high-latitude communities in significant ways. In the short growing season of subarctic habitats, it is essential that the timing and duration of phenological phases match favorable environmental conditions. We explored the time of the first appearance of flowers (first flowering day, FFD) and flowering duration across subarctic species composing different communities, from boreal forest to tundra, along an elevational gradient (600-800 m). The study was conducted on Mount Irony (856 m), North-East Canada (54A degrees 90'N, 67A degrees 16'W) during summer 2012. First, we quantified phylogenetic signal in FFD at different spatial scales. Second, we used phylogenetic comparative methods to explore the relationship between FFD, flowering duration, and elevation. We found that the phylogenetic signal for FFD was stronger at finer spatial scales and at lower elevations, indicating that closely related species tend to flower at similar times when the local environment is less harsh. The comparatively weaker phylogenetic signal at higher elevation may be indicative of convergent evolution for FFD. Flowering duration was correlated significantly with mean FFD, with later-flowering species having a longer flowering duration, but only at the lowest elevation. Our results indicate significant evolutionary conservatism in responses to phenological cues, but high phenotypic plasticity in flowering times. We suggest that phylogenetic relationships should be considered in the search for predictions and drivers of flowering time in comparative analyses, because species cannot be considered as statistically independent. Further, phenological drivers should be measured at spatial scales such that variation in flowering matches variation in environment.

Keywords

Flowering time; Phylogenetic signal; Flowering duration; Evolutionary conservatism; Climate change

Published in

International Journal of Biometeorology
2014, Volume: 58, number: 4, pages: 455-462
Publisher: SPRINGER

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG13 Climate action

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Ecology

    Publication identifier

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-013-0672-9

    Permanent link to this page (URI)

    https://res.slu.se/id/publ/65244