In this 23 April 2015 file photo, a sparrow hawk looks up after catching a pigeon on a falcon farm, near the northern Serbian town of Coka. A study published on 16 April 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gives the first global look at a worsening timing problem. For example, in the Netherlands, the Eurasian sparrow hawk has been late for dinner because its prey, the blue tit, over 16 years has arrived almost six days earlier than the hawk. Photo: Darko Vojinovic / AP Photo

By Seth Borenstein
16 April 2018

(PhysOrg) – Global warming is screwing up nature's intricately timed dinner hour, often making hungry critters and those on the menu show up at much different times, a new study shows.

Timing is everything in nature. Bees have to be around and flowers have to bloom at the same time for pollination to work, and hawks need to migrate at the same time as their prey. In many cases, global warming is interfering with that timing, scientists said.

A first-of-its-kind global mega analysis on the biological timing of 88 species that rely on another life form shows that on average species are moving out of sync by about six days a decade, although some pairs are actually moving closer together.

While other studies have looked at individual pairs of species and how warming temperatures have changed their migration, breeding and other timing, the study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gives the first global look at a worsening timing problem.

These changes in species timing are considerably greater than they were before the 1980s, the study said.

"There isn't really any clear indication that it is going to slow down or stop in the near future," said study lead author Heather Kharouba, an ecologist at the University of Ottawa. […]

"It demonstrates that many species interactions from around the world are in a state of rapid flux," Boston University biology professor Richard Primack said in an email. "Prior to this study, studies of changing species interactions focused on one place or one group of species. [more]

Global warming is mixing up nature's dinner time, study says


ABSTRACT: Phenological responses to climate change (e.g., earlier leaf-out or egg hatch date) are now well documented and clearly linked to rising temperatures in recent decades. Such shifts in the phenologies of interacting species may lead to shifts in their synchrony, with cascading community and ecosystem consequences. To date, single-system studies have provided no clear picture, either finding synchrony shifts may be extremely prevalent [Mayor SJ, et al. (2017) Sci Rep 7:1902] or relatively uncommon [Iler AM, et al. (2013) Glob Chang Biol19:2348–2359], suggesting that shifts toward asynchrony may be infrequent. A meta-analytic approach would provide insights into global trends and how they are linked to climate change. We compared phenological shifts among pairwise species interactions (e.g., predator–prey) using published long-term time-series data of phenological events from aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems across four continents since 1951 to determine whether recent climate change has led to overall shifts in synchrony. We show that the relative timing of key life cycle events of interacting species has changed significantly over the past 35 years. Further, by comparing the period before major climate change (pre-1980s) and after, we show that estimated changes in phenology and synchrony are greater in recent decades. However, there has been no consistent trend in the direction of these changes. Our findings show that there have been shifts in the timing of interacting species in recent decades; the next challenges are to improve our ability to predict the direction of change and understand the full consequences for communities and ecosystems.

SIGNIFICANCE: Shifts in the timing of species interactions are often cited as a consequence of climate change and, if present, are expected to have wide-reaching implications for ecological communities. Our knowledge about these shifts mostly comes from single systems, which have provided no clear picture, thus limiting our understanding of how species interactions may be responding overall. Using a new global database based on long-term data on the seasonal timing of biological events for pairwise species interactions, we find that the relative timing of interacting species has changed substantially in recent decades. The observed shifts are greater in magnitude than before recent climate change began, suggesting that there will be widespread warming-related shifts in the synchrony of species in the future.

Global shifts in the phenological synchrony of species interactions over recent decades

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