Phenological patterns of flowering across biogeographical regions of Europe
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Long-term changes of plant phenological phases determined by complex interactions of environmental factors are in the focus of recent climate impact research. There is a lack of studies on the comparison of biogeographical regions in Europe in terms of plant responses to climate. We examined the flowering phenology of plant species to identify the spatio-temporal patterns in their responses to environmental variables over the period 1970–2010. Data were collected from 12 countries along a 3000-km-long, North–South transect from northern to eastern Central Europe.
Biogeographical regions of Europe were covered from Finland to Macedonia. Robust statistical methods were used to determine the most influential factors driving the changes of the beginning of flowering dates. Significant species-specific advancements in plant flowering onsets within the Continental (3 to 8.3 days), Alpine (2 to 3.8 days) and by highest magnitude in the Boreal biogeographical regions (2.2 to 9.6 days per decades) were found, while less pronounced responses were detected in the Pannonian and Mediterranean regions. While most of the other studies only use mean temperature in the models, we show that also the distribution of minimum and maximum temperatures are reasonable to consider as explanatory variable. Not just local (e.g. temperature) but large scale (e.g. North Atlantic Oscillation) climate factors, as well as altitude and latitude play significant role in the timing of flowering across biogeographical regions of Europe. Our analysis gave evidences that species show a delay in the timing of flowering with an increase in latitude (between the geographical coordinates of 40.9 and 67.9), and an advance with changing climate. The woody species (black locust and small-leaved lime) showed stronger advancements in their timing of flowering than the herbaceous species (dandelion, lily of the valley). In later decades (1991–2010), more pronounced phenological change was detected than during the earlier years (1970–1990), which indicates the increased influence of human induced higher spring temperatures in the late twentieth century.