Quo vadis amphibia? Global warming and breeding phenology in frogs, toads and salamanders

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Abstract

As the earth is getting warmer, many animals and plants have shifted their timing of breeding towards earlier dates. However, there is substantial variation between populations in phenological shifts that typically goes unexplained. Identification of the different location and species characteristics that drive such variable responses to global warming is crucial if we are to make predictions for how projected climate change scenarios will play out on local and global scales. Here we conducted a phylogenetically controlled meta-analysis of breeding phenology across frogs, toads and salamanders to examine the extent of variation in amphibian breeding phenology in response to global climate change. We show that there is strong geographic variation in response to global climate change, with species at higher latitudes exhibiting a more pronounced shift to earlier breeding than those at lower latitudes. Our analyses suggest that this latitude effect is a result of both the increased temperature (but not precipitation) at higher latitudes as well as a greater responsiveness by northern populations of amphibians to this change in temperature. We suggest that these effects should reinforce any direct effect of increasing warming at higher latitudes on breeding phenology. In contrast, we found very little contribution from other location factors or species traits. There was no evidence for a phylogenetic signal on advancing breeding phenology or responsiveness to temperature, suggesting that the amphibians that have been studied to date respond similarly to global warming.

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