International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 62, Issue 4, pp 631–641 | Cite as

Projections for the changes in growing season length of tree-ring formation on the Tibetan Plateau based on CMIP5 model simulations

  • Minhui HeEmail author
  • Bao Yang
  • Vladimir Shishov
  • Sergio Rossi
  • Achim Bräuning
  • Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist
  • Jussi Grießinger
Original Paper


The response of the growing season to the ongoing global warming has gained considerable attention. In particular, how and to which extent the growing season will change during this century is essential information for the Tibetan Plateau, where the observed warming trend has exceeded the global mean. In this study, the 1960–2014 mean length of the tree-ring growing season (LOS) on the Tibetan Plateau was derived from results of the Vaganov-Shashkin oscilloscope tree growth model, based on 20 composite study sites and more than 3000 trees. Bootstrap and partial correlations were used to evaluate the most significant climate factors determining the LOS in the study region. Based on this relationship, we predicted the future variability of the LOS under three emission scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 2.6, 6.0, and 8.5, representing different concentrations of greenhouse gasses) derived from 17 Earth system models participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5). The averaged LOS on the Tibetan Plateau is 103 days during the period 1960–2014, and April–September minimum temperature is the strongest factor controlling the LOS. We detected a general increase in the LOS over the twenty-first century under all the three selected scenarios. By the middle of this century, LOS will extend by about 3 to 4 weeks under the RCPs 2.6 and 6.0, and by more than 1 month (37 days) under the RCP 8.5, relative to the baseline period 1960–2014. From the middle to the end of the twenty-first century, LOS will further extend by about 3 to 4 weeks under the RCPs 6.0 and 8.5, respectively. Under the RCP 2.6 scenario, however, the extension reaches a plateau at around 2050 and about 2 weeks LOS extension. In total, we found an average rate of 2.1, 3.6, and 5.0 days decade−1 for the LOS extension from 2015 to 2100 under the RCPs 2.6, 6.0, and 8.5, respectively. However, such estimated LOS extensions may be offset by other ecological factors that were not included into the growth model. The estimated lengthening of the growing season could substantially affect carbon sequestration and forest productivity on the Tibetan Plateau.


Phenology Temperature sensitivity Representative Concentration Pathways Climate predictions 



The authors are grateful to the editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. This study was jointly funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41520104005, 41325008). Minhui He appreciates the support by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for supporting her research stay in the lab of Achim Bräuning. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist is partly supported by a grant from the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities and the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation (Stiftelsen Riksbankens Jubileumsfond). Vladimir Shishov is supported by the Russian Science Foundation (Grant 14-14-00219-P) and the Russian Federation Government assignment “Science of Future” (project 5.3508.2017/4.6).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

484_2017_1472_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1286 kb)


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© ISB 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and ResourcesChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Institute of GeographyUniversity of Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany
  3. 3.Mathematical Methods and Information Technology DepartmentSiberian Federal UniversityKrasnoyarskRussia
  4. 4.Département des Sciences FondamentalesUniversité du Québec à ChicoutimiQCCanada
  5. 5.Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied Botany, South China Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  6. 6.Department of HistoryStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  7. 7.Bolin Centre for Climate ResearchStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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