Introduction

Seasonal shifts in environmental conditions play a fundamental role in influencing the abundance and distribution of organisms throughout space and time. These seasonal factors ultimately influence key biological parameters of organisms (Table 1). Changes in climatic conditions directly impact primary producers, which in turn influence secondary consumers throughout the food web. Fluctuations of vegetative growth between the growing and nongrowing season result in patchy concentrations of essential resources such as food, water, and energy. Thus, energetic resources for primary and secondary consumers are largely driven by changes in seasonality. These shifts in resources have direct and indirect effects on the ecology of all organisms. Beyond energetic constraints, seasonal variation in climatic conditions influence when and where particular organisms can persist. As a result, many species exhibit highly adaptive traits and life histories that enable them to persist in changing environments. This is especially true in higher latitudes where climatic conditions change more drastically throughout the year in comparison with low latitudes where climatic fluctuations are less variable. In this article, the author outlines some of the seasonal factors that affect

Table 1 Organismal responses to seasonally varying factors

Seasonal forcing

factor

Organismal response

Ice

Dormancy, recruitment

Rainfall

Growth, reproduction, migration,

germination

Photoperiod

Hibernation, reproduction, migration,

diapause, dormancy, food caching,

molting, dormancy, recruitment,

growth

Storms

Dispersal, reproduction, growth

Temperature

Germination, migration, reproduction,

hibernation, recruitment, growth,

dormancy

Wind

Dispersal, reproduction

organisms, as well as highlights examples of how these factors drive seasonal shifts in the abundance and distribution of various species. It is important to note that many, if not all, of the seasonal factors discussed below are correlated with one another and in many cases it is difficult to disentangle the factors individually. For example, seasonal shifts in photoperiod and temperature (tightly correlated with one another) play important roles in the ecology of many organisms; however, these factors are determined by the tilt of the axis of rotation of the Earth.

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