Shifts in phenological distributions reshape interaction potential in natural communities

Abstract

Climate change has changed the phenologies of species worldwide, but it remains unclear how these phenological changes will affect species interactions and the structure of natural communities. Using a novel approach to analyse long-term data of 66 amphibian species pairs across eight communities, we demonstrate that phenological shifts can significantly alter the interaction potential of coexisting competitors. Importantly, these changes in interaction potential were mediated by non-uniform, species-specific shifts in entire phenological distributions and consequently could not be captured by metrics traditionally used to quantify phenological shifts. Ultimately, these non-uniform shifts in phenological distributions increased the interaction potential for 25% of species pairs (and did not reduce interaction potential for any species pair), altering temporal community structure and potentially increasing interspecific competition. These results demonstrate the potential of phenological shifts to reshape temporal structure of natural communities, emphasising the importance of considering entire phenological distributions of natural populations.

  • Citation: Carter, Shannon K.; Saenz, Daniel; Rudolf, Volker H.W. 2018. Shifts in phenological distributions reshape interaction potential in natural communities. Ecology Letters. 21(8): 1143-1151.

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