Climate change may lead to phenological mismatches, where the timing of critical events between interacting species becomes desynchronized, with potential negative consequences. Evidence documenting negative impacts on fitness is mixed. The Cushing match-mismatch hypothesis, the most common hypothesis underlying these studies, offers testable assumptions and predictions to determine consequences of phenological mismatch when combined with a pre-climate change baseline. Here, we highlight how improved approaches could rapidly advance mechanistic understanding. We find that, to the best of our knowledge, no study has yet collected the data required to test this hypothesis well, and 71% of studies fail to define a baseline. Experiments that clearly link timing to fitness and test extremes, integration across approaches and null models would aid robust predictions of shifts with climate change.
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The data supporting the results are archived in Dryad accessible at https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7pvmcvdpz.
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We thank J. Ehrlen, J. Myers, K. Bolmgren, K. Cottingham, L. McClenachan, M. O’Connor and S. Travers for interesting discussions, and to I. Breckheimer, A. Ettinger and D. Loughnan for constructive feedback on the manuscript. H.M.K. thanks the professor writing retreats offered through the Centre for Academic Leadership at the University of Ottawa for support in writing this manuscript.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Kharouba, H.M., Wolkovich, E.M. Disconnects between ecological theory and data in phenological mismatch research. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 406–415 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0752-x
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