European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 131, Issue 6, pp 1957–1965 | Cite as

Spring tree phenology in the Alps: effects of air temperature, altitude and local topography

  • Maryline Pellerin
  • Anne Delestrade
  • Gwladys Mathieu
  • Olivier Rigault
  • Nigel G. Yoccoz
Original Paper


A participatory network was set up to study tree phenology in the Western Alps. We used data collected in 2006 and 2007 on birch, ash, hazel, spruce and larch to assess how local air temperature, altitude and other topographic variables influenced dates of budburst and leaf unfolding. Altitude was, as expected, a main predictor variable of budburst and leafing dates with delays ranging from 2.4 to 3.4 days per 100 m. Ash was the only species with strong evidence of a year difference in the altitudinal gradient with the warm year (2007) characterized by a weaker altitudinal gradient. We found a latitudinal gradient in the appearance of budburst for one coniferous species (larch) and curvature affected leafing in ash. Thermal sum (sum of Degree-Days above 0 °C) was increasing with altitude for budburst (birch, ash and larch) and leafing (birch and ash). Understanding of altitude and topography effects in addition to temperature in phenological models should improve projections of future changes in mountain regions.


Budburst Leaf unfolding Participatory network Thermal sum Snow 



We thank Anne Loison for useful comments on the analyses and Jennifer Stien for reading the last draft. We are grateful to all the volunteers for help to collecting data on the study sites. This work is part of the project “Phénoclim” supported by the Rhône-Alpes and PACA Regions, the Europe (FEDER), the Foundations “Nicolas Hulot pour la Nature et l’Homme”, “Somfy”, “Véolia Environment”, “Petzl” and “Nature et Découvertes”, the EOG Association for Conservation, the Forsitec company, the British Ecological Society, the Patagonia company, and the “Crédit Agricole des Savoies” bank. We also thank the CNRS research group 2968 “Système d’Information Phénologique pour la Gestion et l’Etude des Changements Climatiques”, the National Parks of “Les Ecrins” and “Vanoise”, the Regional Natural Parks of “Les Bauges”, “Queyras” and “Vercors”, the Natural Reserves of “Hauts-Plateaux du Vercors” and “Marais de Lavours”, and the Alpine Botanic Gardens of “Lautaret” and “Champex”, for their support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maryline Pellerin
    • 1
  • Anne Delestrade
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gwladys Mathieu
    • 1
  • Olivier Rigault
    • 1
  • Nigel G. Yoccoz
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre de Recherches sur les Ecosystèmes d’Altitude (CREA)ChamonixFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire d’Ecologie AlpineUniversité de SavoieLe Bourget du LacFrance
  3. 3.Department of Arctic and Marine BiologyUniversity of TromsøTromsöNorway

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