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Volume 12 Issue 4, April 2022

The timing of the trees

Climate change has led to alteration in the timing of critical life events, or phenology, such as the spring-time opening of these horse chestnut buds. Shifts in the timing of primary producers like trees can ripple through food webs, causing wide impacts, including on tree health and productivity, with implications for carbon storage and other ecosystem services. In this issue, we feature a collection of recent research and opinion pieces on climate impacts on phenological changes.

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Image: Besjunior / Alamy Stock Photo. Cover Design: Valentina Monaco


  • Phenology — the timing of important life events — is shifting in response to climate change. For trees, these shifts in spring awakening and autumn senescence have implications for productivity and carbon capture, as well as for the survival of the trees themselves, and the quality of the services they provide.



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  • Shifts in phenology can impact organism fitness, ecosystem function, and goods and services from nature. Climate change management must better integrate phenology to optimize conservation outcomes as these impacts increase.

    • A. K. Ettinger
    • C. J. Chamberlain
    • E. M. Wolkovich
  • Millions of people rely on potentially sustainable harvesting for their income and energy. Yet specious assumptions about deforestation continue to drive ineffective bans on these practices. This occurs at the peril of the climate and the poor.

    • Geoff J. Wells
    • Casey M. Ryan
    • Janet A. Fisher
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Books & Arts

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  • Jean Combes’s love of nature as a child led her to note the signs of starting spring. Her long-term records are now part of a vital growing citizen science dataset that starkly shows how climate change is shifting the timing of the natural world.

    • Tegan Armarego-Marriott
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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Controversy remains as to whether nuclear power should be part of a sustainable future energy mix. Phasing out nuclear too rapidly could lead to substantial health damages from air pollution.

    • Sebastian Rausch
    News & Views
  • As the ozone hole begins to heal, concentrations of harmful ground-level ozone are also increasing. Work now shows the impacts that both changes are having on the Southern Ocean and our wider climate system.

    • William J. M. Seviour
    News & Views
  • Estimating future economic and domestic water use is difficult due to uncertain changes in climate and socioeconomic conditions. Now, research estimates future water use in the United States could decrease or more than double by 2070 under plausible socioeconomic and climate scenarios.

    • Landon Marston
    News & Views
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Research Briefings

  • Vast areas of carbon-dense, permafrost peatlands are known to be at risk from warming climates, but models indicate that they are closer to widespread climatic degradation than previously believed. All but the most aggressive climate mitigation scenarios will render these carbon hotspots climatically unsustainable across Europe and Western Siberia within decades.

    Research Briefing
  • This novel, three-dimensional approach to marine conservation identifies vertically coherent locations for global marine protected areas in the high seas. Taking a climate-smart approach, this work prioritized the protection of regions with increased biodiversity and reduced climate exposure across different depth domains, to identify sites that deserve protection now and into the future.

    Research Briefing
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  • Increasing carbon storage through soils could help mitigate climate change and is an important part of many countries’ strategies. The authors review current soil carbon monitoring in the European Union for greenhouse-gas inventories and find that current practices are not accurate enough to measure climate benefits.

    • Valentin Bellassen
    • Denis Angers
    • Asger Olesen
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Review Articles

  • Human cooperation, which is essential for climate action, is shaped by the social cognition of individuals. This Review examines three mechanisms that play an important role in discouraging pro-environmental behaviours, but which can also provide effective solutions for collective action.

    • Mélusine Boon-Falleur
    • Aurore Grandin
    • Coralie Chevallier
    Review Article
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Brief Communications

  • The current ambition for hydrofluorocarbon emissions reduction by the Kigali Amendment is not sufficient to meet the 1.5 °C Paris Agreement goal. The authors show that a more ambitious Kigali Amendment target could still help in achieving the Paris goal if more countries act early.

    • Pallav Purohit
    • Nathan Borgford-Parnell
    • Lena Höglund-Isaksson
    Brief Communication
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  • Co-occurring hot and dry extremes are predicted to increase with global warming. Changes in precipitation will modulate the extent of these changes, highlighting the importance of understanding regional precipitation trends to prepare society and minimize impacts.

    • Emanuele Bevacqua
    • Giuseppe Zappa
    • Jakob Zscheischler
    Article Open Access
  • Determining the emergent climate change signals in the tropical Pacific—mean state and El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO)—is crucial for climate action. Model simulations show that the mean sea surface temperature signal is already detectable, and that mean rainfall and ENSO-related signals could emerge around 2040.

    • Jun Ying
    • Matthew Collins
    • Karl Stein
  • Between 1955 and 2000 stratospheric ozone decreased and tropospheric ozone increased. Model analysis shows that these ozone changes each drove warming of the Southern Ocean through distinct mechanisms and together account for ~30% of the net subsurface Southern Ocean heat content increases over the same period, with the larger contribution from tropospheric increases.

    • Wei Liu
    • Michaela I. Hegglin
    • Neil C. Swart
  • Permafrost peatlands are thawing, yet the timing and spatial dynamics of thaw are not well constrained. Under moderate and high warming scenarios, permafrost peatlands in Europe and Western Siberia will cross a tipping point where the climate becomes unsuitable, putting their carbon stores at risk.

    • Richard E. Fewster
    • Paul J. Morris
    • Christopher J. Smith
  • The authors define the global environmental niches of plankton from nano- (viruses) to meso-zooplankton (small metazoans) using metagenomic data. They assess reorganizations under climate change and the environmental drivers of change, with focus on the impacts on nitrogen and carbon fluxes.

    • Paul Frémont
    • Marion Gehlen
    • Olivier Jaillon
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Amendments & Corrections

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