Plants are finely tuned to the seasonality of their environment, and shifts in the timing of plant activity (i.e. phenology) provide some of the most compelling evidence that species and ecosystems are being influenced by global environmental change. Researchers across disciplines have observed shifting phenology at multiple scales, including earlier spring flowering in individual plants and an earlier spring green-up' of the land surface revealed in satellite images. Experimental and modeling approaches have sought to identify the mechanisms causing these shifts, as well as to make predictions regarding the consequences. Here, we discuss recent advances in several fields that have enabled scaling between species responses to recent climatic changes and shifts in ecosystem productivity, with implications for global carbon cycling.