This paper summarizes a broad range of studies that have examined influences of recent climate change on plant phenology or distribution. Spring events such as leafing and flowering have typically advanced, some by several weeks, with median advances of 4–5 d per degree Celsius. Autumn events, such as leaf coloring or leaf fall, have usually become delayed, though with more variability than spring events. Changes in summer events have been mixed. Phenological changes have varied geographically, as have recent temperature changes. Most studies of at least several decades duration show the initiation of rapid changes in the 1970s or 1980s, paralleling patterns of temperature change. Plants and animals in a given area have often responded at different rates to temperature change, which is likely to change patterns of interaction between plants and their pollinators and herbivores. Altitudinal changes in plant distributions have been demonstrated in several areas, especially in Scandinavia and in Mediterranean Europe, though these changes lag the measured temperature changes. Latitudinal changes in plant distribution have been demonstrated in only a few instances and it has been suggested that precipitation changes may have limited range shifts in response to warming in some areas. The observed and predicted changes in plant distribution and phenology have major implications for various ecological and evolutionary phenomena, including ecosystem productivity, species interactions, community structure, and conservation of biodiversity.
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Vol. 135 • No. 1