International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 52, Issue 7, pp 587–605 | Cite as

European larch phenology in the Alps: can we grasp the role of ecological factors by combining field observations and inverse modelling?

  • M. MigliavaccaEmail author
  • E. Cremonese
  • R. Colombo
  • L. Busetto
  • M. Galvagno
  • L. Ganis
  • M. Meroni
  • E. Pari
  • M. Rossini
  • C. Siniscalco
  • U. Morra di Cella
Original Paper


Vegetation phenology is strongly influenced by climatic factors. Climate changes may cause phenological variations, especially in the Alps which are considered to be extremely vulnerable to global warming. The main goal of our study is to analyze European larch (Larix decidua Mill.) phenology in alpine environments and the role of the ecological factors involved, using an integrated approach based on accurate field observations and modelling techniques. We present 2 years of field-collected larch phenological data, obtained following a specifically designed observation protocol. We observed that both spring and autumn larch phenology is strongly influenced by altitude. We propose an approach for the optimization of a spring warming model (SW) and the growing season index model (GSI) consisting of a model inversion technique, based on simulated look-up tables (LUTs), that provides robust parameter estimates. The optimized models showed excellent agreement between modelled and observed data: the SW model predicts the beginning of the growing season (BGS) with a mean RMSE of 4 days, while GSI gives a prediction of the growing season length (LGS) with a RMSE of 5 days. Moreover, we showed that the original GSI parameters led to consistent errors, while the optimized ones significantly increased model accuracy. Finally, we used GSI to investigate interactions of ecological factors during springtime development and autumn senescence. We found that temperature is the most effective factor during spring recovery while photoperiod plays an important role during autumn senescence: photoperiod shows a contrasting effect with altitude decreasing its influence with increasing altitude.


European larch phenology Alpine environment Phenological models Inverse modelling 



This research was supported by the ARPA Valle d'Aosta REPHLEX (Remote Sensing of Phenology Larix Experiment) project. We thank L. Mercalli (SMI) for his suggestions and for providing meteorological data. We further thank A. Mammoliti Mochet and L. Cerise (ARPA VdA) M. Tardivo, E. Matta (UNIMIB) M. Brunod (UNITO) R. Accorsini and SSK group for their support in field surveys. Finally, we thank G. Agnesod (ARPA VdA) and M. Reichstein for fruitful discussions. We are also grateful to anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Migliavacca
    • 1
    Email author
  • E. Cremonese
    • 2
  • R. Colombo
    • 1
  • L. Busetto
    • 1
    • 4
  • M. Galvagno
    • 1
    • 2
  • L. Ganis
    • 2
  • M. Meroni
    • 1
  • E. Pari
    • 3
  • M. Rossini
    • 1
  • C. Siniscalco
    • 3
  • U. Morra di Cella
    • 2
  1. 1.Remote Sensing of Environmental Dynamics Laboratory, Dip. Scienze dell’Ambiente e del TerritorioUniversità Milano-BicoccaMilanoItaly
  2. 2.Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell’Ambiente della Valle d’AostaAostaItaly
  3. 3.Dep. Biologia VegetaleUniversità degli Studi di TorinoTorinoItaly
  4. 4.CNR-IIA Institute on Atmospheric PollutionRomaItaly

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