Toward a synthetic understanding of the role of phenology in ecology and evolution

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2010 Oct 12;365(1555):3101-12. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0145.


Phenology affects nearly all aspects of ecology and evolution. Virtually all biological phenomena-from individual physiology to interspecific relationships to global nutrient fluxes-have annual cycles and are influenced by the timing of abiotic events. Recent years have seen a surge of interest in this topic, as an increasing number of studies document phenological responses to climate change. Much recent research has addressed the genetic controls on phenology, modelling techniques and ecosystem-level and evolutionary consequences of phenological change. To date, however, these efforts have tended to proceed independently. Here, we bring together some of these disparate lines of inquiry to clarify vocabulary, facilitate comparisons among habitat types and promote the integration of ideas and methodologies across different disciplines and scales. We discuss the relationship between phenology and life history, the distinction between organismal- and population-level perspectives on phenology and the influence of phenology on evolutionary processes, communities and ecosystems. Future work should focus on linking ecological and physiological aspects of phenology, understanding the demographic effects of phenological change and explicitly accounting for seasonality and phenology in forecasts of ecological and evolutionary responses to climate change.

Publication types

  • Introductory Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Climate*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Seasons