European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 132, Issue 1, pp 1-8

First online:

What role for photoperiod in the bud burst phenology of European beech

  • Yann VitasseAffiliated withInstitute of Botany, University of Basel Email author 
  • , David BaslerAffiliated withInstitute of Botany, University of Basel

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A considerable number of studies have investigated the phenology of European beech using models, experimental controlled conditions, or descriptive surveys of patterns in situ. In spite of this interest, there is no consensus about the environmental factors controlling bud burst in beech, especially about the role of photoperiod and chilling temperature (cold temperature effective to release bud dormancy). However, recent experimental and modelling studies provide new insights into the means by which these environmental factors control beech phenology. This present contribution aims to reconcile contradictory hypotheses about the main environmental factors controlling bud burst date of European beech. First, we review the main published results on the environmental control of beech phenology both in controlled and in natural conditions. Second, supported by the findings of recent studies, we propose a new theory for the role of photoperiod during the chilling phase for explaining spatial and temporal variations in bud burst phenology of European beech. Examples using long-term data from the Swiss Alps and Germany are presented to support this theory. The possible impacts of future and ongoing climate warming on beech phenology are discussed. Finally, due to interactions between chilling, forcing temperature, and photoperiod, we assert that beech phenology follows a nonlinear trend across biogeographical gradients such as changes in elevation or latitude and that the bud burst date of beech is expected not to undergo significant changes in response to global warming, especially in warmer climates.


Fagus sylvatica Spring phenology Bud burst Chilling Photoperiod Temperature Climate change