Estimating the ability of plants to plastically track temperature-mediated shifts in the spring phenological optimum
One consequence of rising spring temperatures is that the optimum timing of key life-history events may advance. Where this is the case, a population's fate may depend on the degree to which it is able to track a change in the optimum timing either via plasticity or via adaptation. Estimating the effect that temperature change will have on optimum timing using standard approaches is logistically challenging, with the result that very few estimates of this important parameter exist. Here we adopt an alternative statistical method that substitutes space for time to estimate the temperature sensitivity of the optimum timing of 22 plant species based on >200 000 spatiotemporal phenological observations from across the United Kingdom.