Falling out of synch – plants, animals and climate change

March 18, 2019

The “spring forward” resetting of our time-tellers this month put many of us out of synch for a day or more, grumbling at the disturbance to our natural sleep rhythm.  Then we adjusted.

There is, though, a more insidious shifting of time in our natural world that is proceeding in a gradual, subtle way to most, but with serious disruptive effects.

There is clear evidence that climate change is disturbing natural rhythms and lifecycles, the cues that animals take from the natural world,  so they no longer line up — creating an ecological mismatch, as when, for instance, a species’ food supply falls out of synch with its breeding schedules.

Heather Kharouba knows more than most about this topic. An Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Ottawa, her research focuses on how and why species are responding to climate change and what those responses mean for ecological communities, with a particular focus on plant-insect interactions.

Kharouba’s upcoming talk at the April 2 meeting of the Macnamara Club on Climate Change and the Timing of Species Interactions, will give us data and context on the key biological events.

Lead author on the 2018 study Global shifts in the phenological synchrony of species interactions over recent decades, she noted that the relative timing of interacting species has changed substantially in recent decades, at a pace greater than before the 1980s.  

And not everything is changing together. On average species are moving out of sync by about six days a decade, although some pairs are actually moving closer together.

Clearly, predicting the future of species diversity is a massive challenge.

Butterflies are good indicators of how climate change will affect other wildlife notes Heather Kharouba, who will discuss how her lab is addressing issues for species of local interest like the Monarch butterfly.

At our meeting, Kharouba will also discuss how her lab is addressing issues for species of local interest like the Monarch butterfly and the invasive species the Dog-strangling vine (Vincetoxicum rossicum). A local team is researching the plant-munching caterpillar of the Hypena opulenta moth that eats the vine and can help control it so that the native plants have a chance to compete again.

Don’t miss: Climate Change and the Timing of Species Interactions

When: Tuesday, April 2, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Arnprior Curling Club, 15 Galvin Street, Arnprior

Cost: Meetings (and presentations) are free for Club members and $5 for guests.

Guests are welcome at this and every meeting of the Macnamara Club.

KR