A Mechanistic Framework for Understanding the Effects of Climate Change on the Link Between Flowering and Fruiting Phenology

Manette E. Sandor, Clare E. Aslan, Liba Pejchar, Judith L. Bronstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Phenological shifts are a widely studied consequence of climate change. Little is known, however, about certain critical phenological events, nor about mechanistic links between shifts in different life-history stages of the same organism. Among angiosperms, flowering times have been observed to advance with climate change, but, whether fruiting times shift as a direct consequence of shifting flowering times, or respond differently or not at all to climate change, is poorly understood. Yet, shifts in fruiting could alter species interactions, including by disrupting seed dispersal mutualisms. In the absence of long-term data on fruiting phenology, but given extensive data on flowering, we argue that an understanding of whether flowering and fruiting are tightly linked or respond independently to environmental change can significantly advance our understanding of how fruiting phenologies will respond to warming climates. Through a case study of biotically and abiotically dispersed plants, we present evidence for a potential functional link between the timing of flowering and fruiting. We then propose general mechanisms for how flowering and fruiting life history stages could be functionally linked or independently driven by external factors, and we use our case study species and phenological responses to distinguish among proposed mechanisms in a real-world framework. Finally, we identify research directions that could elucidate which of these mechanisms drive the timing between subsequent life stages. Understanding how fruiting phenology is altered by climate change is essential for all plant species but is particularly critical to sustaining the large numbers of plant species that rely on animal-mediated dispersal, as well as the animals that rely on fruit for sustenance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number752110
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
StatePublished - Dec 6 2021


  • flowering
  • fruiting
  • global change
  • life history stages
  • phenological shifts
  • seed dispersal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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