Spatial and interspecific variability in phenological responses to warming temperatures

Richard B. Primack, Inés Ibáñez, Hiroyoshi Higuchi, Sang Don Lee, Abraham J. Miller-Rushing, Adam M. Wilson, John A. Silander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


A comprehensive understanding of species phenological responses to global warming will require observations that are both long-term and spatially extensive. Here we present an analysis of the spring phenological response to climate variation of twelve taxa: six plants, three birds, a frog, and two insects. Phenology was monitored using standardized protocols at 176 meteorological stations in Japan and South Korea from 1953 to 2005, and in some cases even longer. We developed a hierarchical Bayesian model to examine the complex interactions of temperature, site effects, and latitude on phenology. Results show species-specific variation in the magnitude and even in the direction of their responses to increasing temperature, which also differ from site-to-site. At most sites the differences in phenology among species are forecast to become greater with warmer temperatures. Our results challenge the assertion that trends in one geographic region can be extrapolated to others, and emphasize the idiosyncratic nature of the species response to global warming. Field studies are needed to determine how these patterns of variation in species response to climate change affect species interactions and the ability to persist in a changing climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2569-2577
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Comments on the manuscript were provided by David Inouye, Eric Post, William Laurance, Guy Midgley, Qiang Yu and two anonymous reviewers. Masaki Fujita and Shigeto Koike arranged the data set. The work was supported in part by the University of Tokyo, Utsunomiya University Weed Science Center, Guggenheim Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, Korean Ministry of Science and Technology, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, and Boston University.


  • Animal phenology
  • Climate change
  • East Asia
  • Geographic differences
  • Global warning
  • Hierarchical Bayes
  • Plant phenology
  • Spatial variability


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