, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 96-104
Date: 02 Aug 2005

Possible impacts of climate change on natural vegetation in Saxony (Germany)

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Abstract

Recent climate changes have had distinct impacts on plant development in many parts of the world. Higher air temperatures, mainly since the end of the 1980s, have led to advanced timing of phenological phases and consequently to an extension of the general growing season. For this reason it is interesting to know how plants will respond to future climate change. In this study simple phenological models have been developed to estimate the impact of climate change on the natural vegetation in Saxony. The estimations are based on a regional climate scenario for the state of Saxony. The results indicate that changes in the timing of phenophases could continue in the future. Due to distinct temperature changes in winter and in summer, mainly the spring and summer phases will be advanced. Spring phenophases, such as leafing or flowering, show the strongest trends. Depending on the species, the average timing of these phenophases could be advanced by 3–27 days by 2050. Phenophases in autumn show relatively small changes. Thus, the annual growth period of individual trees will be further extended, mainly because of the shift of spring phases. Frequent droughts in summer and in autumn can compensate for the earlier leafing of trees, because in this case leaf colouring and leaf fall would start some weeks earlier. In such cases, the growing period would not be really extended, but shifted to the beginning of the year.