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  1. Abstract

    Plant phenology regulates the carbon cycle and land‐atmosphere coupling. Currently, climate models often disagree with observations on the seasonal cycle of vegetation growth, partially due to how spring onset is measured and simulated. Here we use both thermal and leaf area index (LAI) based indicators to characterize spring onset in CMIP6 models. Although the historical timing varies considerably across models, most agree that spring has advanced in recent decades and will continue to arrive earlier with future warming. Across the Northern Hemisphere for the periods 1950–2014, 1981–2014, and 2015–2099 in the historical and SSP5‐8.5 simulations, thermal‐based indicators estimate spring advances of −0.7 ± 0.2, −1.4 ± 0.4, and −2.4 ± 0.7 days/decade, while LAI‐based indicators estimate −0.4 ± 0.3, −0.1 ± 0.3, and −1±1.1 days/decade. Thereby, LAI‐based indicators exhibit weaker trends toward earlier onset, leading to uncertainties from different indices being as large or larger than model uncertainty. Reconciling these discrepancies is critical for understanding future changes in spring onset.

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  2. Abstract

    Ecological forecasting provides a powerful set of methods for predicting short‐ and long‐term change in living systems. Forecasts are now widely produced, enabling proactive management for many applied ecological problems. However, despite numerous calls for an increased emphasis on prediction in ecology, the potential for forecasting to accelerate ecological theory development remains underrealized.

    Here, we provide a conceptual framework describing how ecological forecasts can energize and advance ecological theory. We emphasize the many opportunities for future progress in this area through increased forecast development, comparison and synthesis.

    Our framework describes how a forecasting approach can shed new light on existing ecological theories while also allowing researchers to address novel questions. Through rigorous and repeated testing of hypotheses, forecasting can help to refine theories and understand their generality across systems. Meanwhile, synthesizing across forecasts allows for the development of novel theory about the relative predictability of ecological variables across forecast horizons and scales.

    We envision a future where forecasting is integrated as part of the toolset used in fundamental ecology. By outlining the relevance of forecasting methods to ecological theory, we aim to decrease barriers to entry and broaden the community of researchers using forecasting for fundamental ecological insight.

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  3. Abstract The number and diversity of phenological studies has increased rapidly in recent years. Innovative experiments, field studies, citizen science projects, and analyses of newly available historical data are contributing insights that advance our understanding of ecological and evolutionary responses to the environment, particularly climate change. However, many phenological data sets have peculiarities that are not immediately obvious and can lead to mistakes in analyses and interpretation of results. This paper aims to help researchers, especially those new to the field of phenology, understand challenges and practices that are crucial for effective studies. For example, researchers may fail to account for sampling biases in phenological data, struggle to choose or design a volunteer data collection strategy that adequately fits their project’s needs, or combine data sets in inappropriate ways. We describe ten best practices for designing studies of plant and animal phenology, evaluating data quality, and analyzing data. Practices include accounting for common biases in data, using effective citizen or community science methods, and employing appropriate data when investigating phenological mismatches. We present these best practices to help researchers entering the field take full advantage of the wealth of available data and approaches to advance our understanding of phenology and its implications for ecology. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 29, 2024