Exploring the drivers of variation in trophic mismatches: A systematic review of long-term avian studies

Mikhail K. Zhemchuzhnikov*, Tom S.L. Versluijs, Thomas K. Lameris, Jeroen Reneerkens, Christiaan Both, Jan A. van Gils

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Many organisms reproduce in seasonal environments, where selection on timing of reproduction is particularly strong as consumers need to synchronize reproduction with the peaked occurrence of their food. When a consumer species changes its phenology at a slower rate than its resources, this may induce a trophic mismatch, that is, offspring growing up after the peak in food availability, potentially leading to reductions in growth and survival. However, there is large variation in the degree of trophic mismatches as well as in its effects on reproductive output. Here, we explore the potential causes for variation in the strength of trophic mismatches in published studies of birds. Specifically, we ask whether the changes in the degree of mismatch that have occurred over time can be explained by a bird's (a) breeding latitude, (b) migration distance, and/or (c) life-history traits. We found that none of these three factors explain changes in the degree of mismatch over time. Nevertheless, food phenology did advance faster at more northerly latitudes, while shifts in bird phenology did not show a trend with latitude. We argue that the lack of support in our results is attributable to the large variation in the metrics used to describe timing of food availability. We propose a pathway to improve the quantification of trophic mismatches, guided by a more rigorous understanding of links between consumers and their resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3710-3725
Number of pages16
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May-2021


  • asynchrony
  • bird phenology
  • consumer-resource interactions
  • reproductive success
  • trophic mismatch

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