, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1091–1100

Temporal shifts in leaf phenology of beech (Fagus sylvatica) depend on elevation

  • Katarina Čufar
  • Martin De Luis
  • Miguel Angel Saz
  • Zalika Črepinšek
  • Lučka Kajfež-Bogataj
Original Paper


We analyzed the leaf phenology of European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and its variation due to spatial and temporal climatic variability, using a modified data set of the phenological network in Slovenia. We used first leaf unfolding (LU) and general leaf colouring (LC) time series of 47 sites (altitudes from 55 to 1,050 m a.s.l.) and corresponding climate series (52 of precipitation and 38 of temperature) for the period 1955–2007, collected by the Environmental Agency of the Republic of Slovenia. Across the network in average, LU occurred from 14 April until 13 May, and LC from 3 October until 29 October. LU was delayed by 2.6 days and LC was promoted by 1.9 days when the altitude increased by 100 m. Year-to-year variation of LU was significantly correlated with March and April temperatures. March temperatures had a greater effect at lower elevations and April ones at higher elevations. LC was related to August and September temperatures, and occurred later if the temperatures were higher. Recently, March and April temperatures showed an increasing trend and LU occurred 1.52 days earlier per decade at 1,000 m a.s.l. but no significant shifts were observed at lower altitudes. August temperatures were also increasing but the trends of LC were not significant and were not clearly related to altitude. Our detailed sub-regional data from a relatively small area with high geographic variability showed that changes in climate affect phenological response, mainly leaf unfolding, to a greater degree at higher altitudes than at lower ones.


European beech (Fagus sylvaticaPhenology Temperature Leaf unfolding Leaf colouring Climate change 

Supplementary material

468_2012_686_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (56 kb)
Geographical coordinates of 47 study sites and average values (day of the year DOY) of first leaf unfolding (LU) and general leaf colouring (LC) as well as mean monthly, seasonal and annual precipitation sums and temperatures at each site for the period 1955–2007. (PDF 56 kb)


  1. Alexandersson H (1986) A homogeneity test applied to precipitation data. J Climatol 6:661–675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Biondi F, Waikul K (2004) DENDROCLIM2002: a C++ program for statistical calibration of climate signals in treering chronologies. Comput Geosci 30:303–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bončina A, Diaci J, Gašperšič F (2003) Long-term changes in tree species composition in the Dinaric mountain forests of Slovenia. For Chron 79:227–232Google Scholar
  4. Breda N, Huc R, Granier A, Dreyer E (2006) Temperate forest trees and stands under severe drought: a review of ecophysiological responses, adaptation processes and long-term consequences. Ann For Sci 63(6):625–644CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caffarra A, Donnelly A (2011) The ecological significance of phenology in four different tree species: effects of light and temperature on bud burst. Int J Biometeorol. doi 10.1007/s00484-010-0386-1
  6. Chmielewski FM, Rötzer T (2001) Response of tree phenology to climate change across Europe. Agric Meteorol 108:101–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chmielewski FM, Rötzer T (2002) Annual and spatial variability of the beginning of growing season in Europe in relation to air temperature changes. Clim Res 19:257–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Črepinšek Z, Kajfež-Bogataj L, Bergant K (2006) Modelling of weather variability effect on fitophenology. Ecol Model 194:256–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Čufar K, De Luis M, Berdajs E, Prislan P (2008a) Main patterns of variability in beech tree-ring chronologies from different sites in Slovenia and their relation to climate. Zbornik gozdarstva in lesarstva 87:123–134Google Scholar
  10. Čufar K, Prislan P, De Luis M, Gričar J (2008b) Tree-ring variation, wood formation and phenology of beech (Fagus sylvatica) from a representative site in Slovenia, SE Central Europe. Trees 22:749–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Luis M, Brunetti M, González-Hidalgo JC, Longares LA, Martín-Vide J (2010) Changes in seasonal precipitation in the Iberian Peninsula during 1946–2005. Glob Planet Change 74:27–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Delpierre N, Dufrene E, Soudani K, Ulrich E, Cecchini S, Boe J, Francois C (2009) Modelling interannual and spatial variability of leaf senescence for three deciduous tree species in France. Agr For Meteorol 149:938–948CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Di Filippo A, Biondi F, Cufar K, De Luis M, Grabner M, Maugerio M, Presutti Saba E, Schirone B, Piovesan G (2007) Bioclimatology of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in the Eastern Alps: spatial and altitudinal climatic signals identified through a tree-ring network. J Biogeogr 34:1873–1892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dittmar C, Elling W (2006) Phenological phases of common beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) and their dependence on region and altitude in Southern Germany. Eur J For Res 125:181–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Doi H, Takahashi M (2008) Latitudinal patterns in the phenological responses of leaf colouring and leaf fall to climate change in Japan. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 17:556–561CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Donnelly A, Salamin N, Jones MB (2006) Changes in tree phenology: an indicator of spring warming in Ireland? Biol Environ: Proc Royal Irish Acad 106(1):47–55Google Scholar
  17. Estrella N, Menzel A (2006) Responses of leaf colouring in four deciduous tree species to climate and weather in Germany. Clim Res 32:253–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Geßler A, Keitel C, Kreuzwieser J, Matyssek R, Seiler W, Rennenberg H (2007) Potential risks for European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in a changing climate. Trees 21:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gomory D, Paule L (2011) Trade-off between height growth and spring flushing in common beech (Fagus sylvatica L.). Ann For Sci 68:975–984CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. González-Hidalgo JC, Brunetti M, De Luis M (2010) A new tool for monthly precipitation analysis in Spain: MOPREDAS database (Monthly precipitation trends December 1945–November 2005). Int J Climatol. doi:10.1002/joc.2115
  21. Gordo O, Sanz JJ (2010) Impact of climate change on plant phenology in Mediterranean ecosystems. Glob Change Biol 16:1082–1106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guiot J (1991) The bootstrapped response function. Tree-Ring Bull 51:39–41Google Scholar
  23. Hänninen H (1991) Does climatic warming increase the risk of frost damage in northern trees? Plant Cell Environ 14:449–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heide OM (1993) Dormancy release in beech buds (Fagus sylvatica) requires both chilling and long days. Physiol Plant 89:187–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. IPCC (2007) Summary for policymakers. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 7–22Google Scholar
  26. Jump AS, Hunt JM, Peñuelas J (2006) Rapid climate change-related growth decline at the southern range edge of Fagus sylvatica. Glob Change Biol 12:2163–2174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Koch E, Bruns E, Chmielewski FM, Defila C, Lipa W, Menzel A 2007. Guidelines for phenological observations, WMO Technical Commission for Climatology, Open Program Area Group on Monitoring and Analysis of Climate Variability and Change (OPAG2). Accessed May 23, 2011
  28. Körner C, Basler D (2010) Phenology under global warming. Sci 327(5972):1461–1462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kramer K (1994) A modelling analysis of the effects of climatic warming on the probability of spring frost damage to tree species in The Netherlands and Germany. Plant Cell Environ 17:367–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kramer K, Leinonen I, Loustau D (2000) The importance of phenology for the evaluation of impact of climate change on growth of boreal, temperate and Mediterranean forests ecosystems: an overview. Int J Biometeorol 44:67–75PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kramer K, Degen B, Buschbom J, Hickler T, Thuiller W, Sykes MT, De Winter W (2010) Modelling exploration of the future of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) under climate change—Range, abundance, genetic diversity and adaptive response. For Ecol Manag 259:2213–2222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Linkosalo T, Carter TR, Häkkinen R, Hari P (2000) Predicting spring phenology and frost damage risk of Betula sp. under climatic warming: a comparison of two models. Tree Physiol 20:1175–1182PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Menzel A (2003) Plant phenological anomalies in Germany and their relation to air temperature and NAO. Clim Change 57(3):243–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Menzel A, Sparks T, Estrella N, Koch E, Aasa A, Ahas R, Alm-Kubler K, Bissolli P, Braslavska O, Briede A, Chmielewski FM, Crepinsek Z, Curnel Y, Dahl A, Defila C, Donnelly A, Filella Y, Jatczak K, Mage F, Mestre A, Nordli O, Penuelas J, Pirinen P, Remisova V, Scheifinger H, Striz M, Susnik A, Van Viet AJH, Wielgolaski FE, Zach S, Zust A (2006) European phenological response to climate change matches the warming pattern. Glob Change Biol 12:1969–1976CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Murray MB, Cannell MGR, Smith RI (1989) Date of budburst of fifteen tree species in Britain following climatic warming. J Appl Ecol 26:693–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Parmesan C, Yohe G (2003) A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature 421:37–42PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Poljanec A, Ficko A, Bončina A (2010) Spatiotemporal dynamic of European beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) in Slovenia, 1970–2005. For Ecol Manag 259:2183–2190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. PRUDENCE (2005) Prediction of regional scenarios and uncertainties for defining european climate change risks and effects. Final report EVK2-CT2001–00132, 269 p. (
  39. Rötzer T, Wittenzeller M, Haeckel H, Nekovar J (2000) Phenology in central Europe: differences and trends of spring phenophases in urban and rural areas. Int J Biometeorol 44:60–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stepanek P (2008a) AnClim – software for time series analysis (for Windows 95/NT). Department of Geography, Faculty of Natural Sciences, MUGoogle Scholar
  41. Stepanek P (2008b) ProClimDB – software for processing climatological datasets. CHMI, Regional office, BrnoGoogle Scholar
  42. Thompson R, Clark RM (2008) Is spring starting earlier? Holocene 18:95–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vitasse Y, Delzon S, Dufrêne E, Pontailler JY, Louvet JM, Kremer A, Michalet R (2009) Leaf phenology sensitivity to temperature in European trees: Do within-species populations exhibit similar responses? Agr For Meteorol 149:735–744CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vitasse Y, Bresson CC, Kremer A, Michalet R, Delzon S (2010) Quantifying phenological plasticity to temperature in two temperate tree species. Funct Ecol 24:1211–1218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vitasse Y, Francois C, Delpierre N, Dufrene E, Kremer A, Chuine I, Delzon S (2011) Assessing the effects of climate change on the phenology of European temperate trees. Agr For Meteorol 151:969–980CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katarina Čufar
    • 1
  • Martin De Luis
    • 2
  • Miguel Angel Saz
    • 2
  • Zalika Črepinšek
    • 3
  • Lučka Kajfež-Bogataj
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Wood Science and Technology, Biotechnical FacultyUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  3. 3.Agronomy Department, Biotechnical FacultyUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

Personalised recommendations