Climate change and phenological mismatch in trophic interactions among plants, insects, and vertebrates

Susanne S. Renner, Constantin M. Zohner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

363 Scopus citations


Phenological mismatch results when interacting species change the timing of regularly repeated phases in their life cycles at different rates. We review whether this continuously ongoing phenomenon, also known as trophic asynchrony, is becoming more common under ongoing rapid climate change. In antagonistic trophic interactions, any mismatch will have negative impacts for only one of the species, whereas in mutualistic interactions, both partners are expected to suffer. Trophic mismatch is therefore expected to last for evolutionarily short periods, perhaps only a few seasons, adding to the difficulty of attributing it to climate change, which requires long-term data. So far, the prediction that diverging phenologies linked to climate change will cause mismatch is most clearly met in antagonistic interactions at high latitudes in the Artic. There is limited evidence of phenological mismatch in mutualistic interactions, possibly because of strong selection on mutualists to have co-adapted phenological strategies. The study of individual plasticity, population variation, and the genetic bases for phenological strategies is in its infancy. Recent work on woody plants revealed the large imprint of historic climate change on temperature, chilling, and day-length thresholds used by different species to synchronize their phenophases, which in the Northern Hemisphere has led to biogeographic phenological regions in which long-lived plants have adapted to particular interannual and intermillennial amplitudes of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-182
Number of pages18
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - Nov 2 2018


  • birds
  • climate warming
  • loss of synchrony
  • photoperiod
  • plant-insect interactions
  • plasticity
  • temperature


Dive into the research topics of 'Climate change and phenological mismatch in trophic interactions among plants, insects, and vertebrates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this