Climate change and plankton phenology in freshwater: current trends and future commitments

  • Csaba Vadadi-Fülöp | Hungarian Scientific Research Fund Office, Hungary.
  • Levente Hufnagel Corvinus University of Budapest, Adaptation to Climate Change Research Group, Hungary.


A solid body of empirical, experimental and theoretical evidence accumulated over recent years indicated that freshwater plankton experienced advance in phenology in response to climate change. Despite rapidly growing evidence for phenological changes, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of how climate change alters plankton phenology in freshwater. To overcome current limitations, we need to shed some light on trends and constraints in current research. The goal of this study is to identify current trends and gaps based on analysis of selected papers, by the help of which we can facilitate further advance in the field. We searched the literature for plankton phenology and confined our search to studies where climate change has been proposed to alter plankton phenology and rates of changes were quantified. We did not restrict our search for empirical contributions; experimental and theoretical studies were considered as well. In the following we discuss the spatio-temporal setting of selected studies, contributions of different taxonomic groups, emerging methodological constraints, measures of phenological trends; and finally give a list of recommendations on how to improve our understanding in the field. The majority of studies were confined to deep lakes with a skewed geographical distribution toward Central Europe, where scientists have long been engaged in limnology. Despite these findings, recent studies suggest that plankton in running waters may experience change in phenology with similar magnitude. Average rate of advancement in phenology of freshwater plankton exceeded those of the marine plankton and the global average. Increasing study duration was not coupled either with increasing contribution of discontinuous data or with increasing rates of phenological changes. Future studies may benefit from i) delivering longterm data across scientific and political boundaries; ii) extending study sites to broader geographical areas with a more explicit consideration of running waters; iii) applying plankton functional groups; iv) increasing the application of satellite data to quantify phytoplankton bloom phenology; v) extending analyses of time series beyond the spring period; vi) using various metrics to quantify variation in phenology; vii) combining empirical, experimental and theoretical approaches; and last but not least viii) paying more attention to emergence dynamics, nonresponding species and trophic mismatch.



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Supporting Agencies
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
clear-water phase, phenological metrics, seasonal timing, trophic mismatch, global warming.
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How to Cite
Vadadi-Fülöp C, Hufnagel L. Climate change and plankton phenology in freshwater: current trends and future commitments. J Limnol [Internet]. 2014Jan.21 [cited 2020Sep.25];73(1). Available from: