Evolutionary and demographic consequences of phenological mismatches

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Climate change has often led to unequal shifts in the seasonal timing (phenology) of interacting species, such as consumers and their resource, leading to phenological ‘mismatches’. Mismatches occur when the time at which a consumer species’s demands for a resource are high does not match with the period when this resource is abundant. Here, we review the evolutionary and population-level consequences of such mismatches and how these depend on other ecological factors, such as additional drivers of selection and density-dependent recruitment. This review puts the research on phenological mismatches into a conceptual framework, applies this framework beyond consumer–resource interactions and illustrates this framework using examples drawn from the vast body of literature on mismatches. Finally, we point out priority questions for research on this key impact of climate change.

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Fig. 1: Definitions of mismatch and mistiming.
Fig. 2: Optimal mismatches are caused by multiple fitness components of phenology.
Fig. 3: Relationships between mismatch and reproductive success at the individual and population level.


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We are grateful to B. Tomotani, J. Ramakers, I. Verhagen, W. Mooij, B. Helm and T. Reed for their comments on an earlier version of this paper, as well as J. Johansson for constructive review comments. This study was supported by an ERC Advanced Grant (339092 – E-Response to M.E.V.).

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M.E.V. and P.G. contributed to the conception of and wrote the manuscript. P.G. generated the figures.

Correspondence to Marcel E. Visser or Phillip Gienapp.

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Visser, M.E., Gienapp, P. Evolutionary and demographic consequences of phenological mismatches. Nat Ecol Evol 3, 879–885 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41559-019-0880-8

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