European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 132, Issue 1, pp 1–8 | Cite as

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

  • Yann VitasseEmail author
  • David Basler


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 



We are grateful to Thomas Herren for providing the phenological data of European beech from the MeteoSwiss (Swiss Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology) and the Landscape dynamic unit, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland for providing the modelled temperature data used in the Fig. 3. We thank Wade Jenner for linguistic revision and improvement of the text. We are grateful to two anonymous referees and for their valuable comments on a previous version of the manuscript. The research has been funded by the European Research Council (ERC) grant 233399 (project TREELIM).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of BotanyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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