Global change ecology - Original Paper


, Volume 161, Issue 1, pp 187-198

Responses of canopy duration to temperature changes in four temperate tree species: relative contributions of spring and autumn leaf phenology

  • Yann VitasseAffiliated withUniversité de Bordeaux, UMR 1202 BIOGECO
  • , Annabel Josée PortéAffiliated withUniversité de Bordeaux, UMR 1202 BIOGECO
  • , Antoine KremerAffiliated withINRA, UMR 1202 BIOGECO
  • , Richard MichaletAffiliated withUniversité de Bordeaux, UMR 1202 BIOGECO
  • , Sylvain DelzonAffiliated withUniversité de Bordeaux, UMR 1202 BIOGECO Email author 

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While changes in spring phenological events due to global warming have been widely documented, changes in autumn phenology, and therefore in growing season length, are less studied and poorly understood. However, it may be helpful to assess the potential lengthening of the growing season under climate warming in order to determine its further impact on forest productivity and C balance. The present study aimed to: (1) characterise the sensitivity of leaf phenological events to temperature, and (2) quantify the relative contributions of leaf unfolding and senescence to the extension of canopy duration with increasing temperature, in four deciduous tree species (Acer pseudoplatanus, Fagus sylvatica, Fraxinus excelsior and Quercus petraea). For 3 consecutive years, we monitored the spring and autumn phenology of 41 populations at elevations ranging from 100 to 1,600 m. Overall, we found significant altitudinal trends in leaf phenology and species-specific differences in temperature sensitivity. With increasing temperature, we recorded an advance in flushing from 1.9 ± 0.3 to 6.6 ± 0.4 days °C−1 (mean ± SD) and a 0 to 5.6 ± 0.6 days °C−1 delay in leaf senescence. Together both changes resulted in a 6.9 ± 1.0 to 13.0 ± 0.7 days °C−1 lengthening of canopy duration depending on species. For three of the four studied species, advances in flushing were the main factor responsible for lengthening canopy duration with increasing temperature, leading to a potentially larger gain in solar radiation than delays in leaf senescence. In contrast, for beech, we found a higher sensitivity to temperature in leaf senescence than in flushing, resulting in an equivalent contribution in solar radiation gain. These results suggest that climate warming will alter the C uptake period and forest productivity by lengthening canopy duration. Moreover, the between-species differences in phenological responses to temperature evidenced here could affect biotic interactions under climate warming.


Growing season length Leaf unfolding Leaf senescence Altitudinal gradient Climate change