Progress towards an interdisciplinary science of plant phenology: building predictions across space, time and species diversity



Climate change has brought renewed interest in the study of plant phenology – the timing of life history events. Data on shifting phenologies with warming have accumulated rapidly, yet research has been comparatively slow to explain the diversity of phenological responses observed across latitudes, growing seasons and species. Here, we outline recent efforts to synthesize perspectives on plant phenology across the fields of ecology, climate science and evolution. We highlight three major axes that vary among these disciplines: relative focus on abiotic versus biotic drivers of phenology, on plastic versus genetic drivers of intraspecific variation, and on cross-species versus autecological approaches. Recent interdisciplinary efforts, building on data covering diverse species and climate space, have found a greater role of temperature in controlling phenology at higher latitudes and for early-flowering species in temperate systems. These efforts have also made progress in understanding the tremendous diversity of responses across species by incorporating evolutionary relatedness, and linking phenological flexibility to invasions and plant performance. Future research with a focus on data collection in areas outside the temperate mid-latitudes and across species' ranges, alongside better integration of how risk and investment shape plant phenology, offers promise for further progress.