Herbarium specimens reveal the footprint of climate change on flowering trends across north-central North America


Correspondence: E-mail: kcalinger@gmail.com


Shifting flowering phenology with rising temperatures is occurring worldwide, but the rarity of co-occurring long-term observational and temperature records has hindered the evaluation of phenological responsiveness in many species and across large spatial scales. We used herbarium specimens combined with historic temperature data to examine the impact of climate change on flowering trends in 141 species collected across 116,000 km2 in north-central North America. On average, date of maximum flowering advanced 2.4 days °C−1, although species-specific responses varied from − 13.5 to + 7.3 days °C−1. Plant functional types exhibited distinct patterns of phenological responsiveness with significant differences between native and introduced species, among flowering seasons, and between wind- and biotically pollinated species. This study is the first to assess large-scale patterns of phenological responsiveness with broad species representation and is an important step towards understanding current and future impacts of climate change on species performance and biodiversity.