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Report, 2017

Temporal asynchrony due to climate change and its impact on host–herbivore–predator interactions

Ekholm, Adam


Emission of greenhouse gases is causing a shift in the global climate. As a consequence, organisms have altered their spatial and temporal distribution. For species temporally synchronized by biotic interactions, a shift in temporal distribution might lead to reduced synchrony. This is especially pertinent in terms of phenological events, as for example a herbivore needs to match its activity with the flowering of its host plant. In this paper, I specifically focus on temporally synchronized biotic interactions in insect host-herbivore-predator communities. The main objective is to investigate four questions: i) How temperature and precipitation affect the development of species; ii) How temporal asynchrony affects single biotic interactions between plants – herbivores and herbivores – predators iii) How temporal asynchrony affects more extensive, multitrophic-level communities; and iv) How biotic interactions will change in the future. A majority of the studies covered in this paper suggests that individual species will increase their development rate if temperature is increased. Moreover, temperature seems to have a more pronounced impact on development rate than humidity condition does. The rate of development increase could vary among species, indicating that temporal asynchrony among currently interacting species could become more common in the future. A major related issue is then to determine if species will be able to locally adapt to the new prevailing conditions, whether they will go extinct or whether they will start interacting more with other species. If selective pressure is hard and genetic variation sufficient, then species may stay synchronized. Furthermore, it is important to assess how temperature will increase in the future. More fluctuating and extreme temperatures might alter species responses. To address these questions we need more studies examining: i) synchrony in herbivore–predator interactions and across several trophic levels; ii) the capacity of synchronized species to adapt to new conditions; and iii) species responses to fluctuating and extreme temperatures.


herbivore-predator interactions; climate change

Published in

Introductory research essay (Department of Ecology, SLU)
Publisher: SLU, Institutionen för ekologi

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Resource Management

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