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Phylogenetic conservatism in plant phenology

October 8, 2013

Phenological events – defined points in the life cycle of a plant or animal – have been regarded as highly plastic traits, reflecting flexible responses to various environmental cues.
The ability of a species to track, via shifts in phenological events, the abiotic environment through time might dictate its vulnerability to future climate change. Understanding the predictors and drivers of phenological change is therefore critical.
Here, we evaluated evidence for phylogenetic conservatism – the tendency for closely related spe-cies to share similar ecological and biological attributes – in phenological traits across flowering plants. We aggregated published and unpublished data on timing of first flower and first leaf, encompassing ~4000 species at 23 sites across the Northern Hemisphere. We reconstructed the phylogeny for the setof included species, first, using the software program Phylomatic, and second, from DNA data. We then quantified phylogenetic conservatism in plant phenology within and across sites.
We show that more closely related species tend to flower and leaf at similar times. By contrastingmean flowering times within and across sites, however, we illustrate that it is not the time of yearthat is conserved, but rather the phenological responses to a common set of abiotic cues.
Our findings suggest that species cannot be treated as statistically independent when modelling phenological responses.
Synthesis. Closely related species tend to resemble each other in the timing of their life-history events, a likely product of evolutionarily conser ved responses to environmental cues. The search for the underlying drivers of phenology must therefore account for species’ shared evolutionary histories.

Publication Year 2013
Title Phylogenetic conservatism in plant phenology
DOI 10.1111/1365-2745.12154
Authors T. Jonathan Davies, Elizabeth M. Wolkovich, Nathan J. B. Kraft, Nicolas Salamin, Jenica M. Allen, Toby R. Ault, Julio L. Betancourt, Kjell Bolmgren, Elsa E. Cleland, Benjamin I. Cook, Theresa M. Crimmins, Susan J. Mazer, Gregory J. McCabe, Stephanie Pau, Jim Regetz, Mark D. Schwartz, Steven E. Travers
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Ecology
Index ID 70186187
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Eastern Branch