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Little directional change in the timing of Arctic spring phenology over the past 25 years

New publication by Schmidt NM, Kankaanpää T, Tiusanen M, Reneerkens J, Versluijs TSL, Hansen LH et al.


With the global change in climate, the Arctic has been pinpointed as the region experiencing the fastest rates of change. As a result, Arctic biological responses—such as shifts in phenology—are expected to outpace those at lower latitudes. 15 years ago, a decade-long dataset from Zackenberg in High Arctic Greenland revealed rapid rates of phenological change.To explore how the timing of spring phenology has developed since, we revisit the Zackenberg time series on flowering plants, arthropods, and birds. Drawing on the full 25-year period of 1996–2020, we find little directional change in the timing of events despite ongoing climatic change. We attribute this finding to a shift in the temporal patterns of climate conditions, from previous directional change to current high inter-annual variability. Additionally, some taxa appear to have reached the limits of their phenological responses, resulting in a leveling off in their phenological responses in warm years. Our findings demonstrate the importance of long-term monitoring of taxa from across trophic levels within the community, allowing for detecting shifts in sensitivities and responses and thus for updated inference in the light of added information.