Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Tropical Asian Forests Through an Influence on Phenology
Changes in plant phenology will be one of the earliest responses to rapid global climate change and could potentially have serious consequences both for plants and for animals that depend on periodically available plant resources. Phenological patterns are most diverse and least understood in the tropics. In those parts of tropical Asia where low temperature or drought impose a seasonal rest period, regular annual cycles of growth and reproduction predominate at the individual, population, and community level. In aseasonal areas, individuals and populations show a range of sub- to supra-annual periodicities, with an overall supra-annual reproductive periodicity at the community level. There is no evidence for photoperiod control of phenology in the Asian tropics, and seasonal changes in temperature are a likely factor only near the northern margins. An opportunistic response to water availability is the simplest explanation for most observed patterns where water is seasonally limiting, while the great diversity of phenological patterns in the aseasonal tropics suggests an equal diversity of controls. The robustness of current phenological patterns to high interannual and spatial variability suggests that most plant species will not be seriously affected by the phenological consequences alone of climate change. However, some individual plant species may suffer, and the consequences of changes in plant phenology for flower- and fruit-dependent animals in fragmented forests could be serious.