Phenological mismatches due to climate change may have important ecological consequences. In a three-year study, phenological shifts due to experimental warming markedly altered trophic relationships between plants and insect herbivores, causing a dramatic decline of reproductive capacity for one of the plant species. In a Tibetan meadow, the gentian (Gentiana formosa) typically flowers after the peak larva density of a noctuid moth (Melanchra pisi) that primarily feeds on a dominant forb (anemone, Anemone trullifolia var. linearis). However, artificial warming of ∼1.5°C advanced gentian flower phenology and anemone vegetative phenology by a week, but delayed moth larvae emergence by two weeks. The warming increased larval density 10-fold, but decreased anemone density by 30%. The phenological and density shifts under warmed conditions resulted in the insect larvae feeding substantially on the gentian flowers and ovules; there was ∼100-fold more damage in warmed than in unwarmed chambers. This radically increased trophic connection reduced gentian plant reproduction and likely contributed to its reduced abundance in the warmed chambers.
Yinzhan Liu, Peter B. Reich, Guoyong Li, and Shucun Sun 2011. Shifting phenology and abundance under experimental warming alters trophic relationships and plant reproductive capacity. Ecology 92:1201–1207.
Liu, Yinzhan; Reich, Peter B.; Li, Guoyong; Sun, Shucun.
Shifting phenology and abundance under experimental warming alters trophic relationships and plant reproductive capacity.
Ecological Society of America.
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