Pollination mode predicts phenological response to climate change

An interesting paper was published recently in the journal in volume 100:5 titled “Pollination mode predicts phenological response to climate change in terrestrial orchids: a case study from central Europe“.  Read the abstract here.

Orchids have shifted their first flowering to earlier dates. From: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2745.2012.02003.x/abstract

The problem they addressed essentially was asking what traits may predict phenological response to climate change.  They studied a set of about 40 species of orchids in Hungary, using data on flowering dates from 1837 to 2009 from herbarium specimens.

They found that across all taxa, flowering time advanced by 3 days during the last 50 years compared to prior to 1960, and by 7.7 days in those species that showed significant advancement in flowering time.

But what might explain the variation in advancement in flowering time in the orchid species they studied?

They found that species that reproduced autogamously or used deceptive pollination advanced the most; also of importance was the season in which the species starts to flower, and the life span.  This last bit was interesting from an evolutionary perspective.  One would think that species with shorter life spans would have greater potential for selection on flowering time – but they found the opposite. They suggest that phenotypic plasticity may be to blame instead of an evolutionary  response to climate change.

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