Plant Ecology

, Volume 215, Issue 12, pp 1417–1422 | Cite as

Plant senescence for ecologists: precision in concept, scale, and terminology

  • Christopher A. LeeEmail author
  • Rose-Marie Muzika


Plant scientists, conservationists, and land managers have expressed a need for more research into causal mechanisms behind whole-plant senescence and mortality, especially where increased rates and incidence of forest decline are projected owing to climate change. However, these disciplines use the terminology of senescence in different ways, and this impedes communication between them. We highlight three common difficulties with senescence terminology as used in the ecological literature and propose some solutions. Specifically, we recommend (1) distinguishing between physiological and demographic senses of the term “senescence”; (2) discarding the qualifiers “exogenous” and “endogenous” as applied to disturbances that can contribute to senescence; and (3) using care in attributing mortality of individual woody perennials to senescence.


Forest decline Tree mortality Disturbance Forest health Plant demography Tree vigor Plant aging 



We thank Stephen Pallardy, Roberto Salguero-Gómez, and an additional anonymous reviewer for constructive comments on this manuscript and the University of Missouri Life Sciences Fellowship for monetary support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forestry, School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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