Phenological behaviour of early spring flowering trees in Spain in response to recent climate changes
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This research reports the phenological trends of four early spring and late winter flowering trees in Spain (south Europe) from a recent period (1986–2012). The studied species were deciduous trees growing in different climatic areas: hazel (Corylus avellana L.), willow (Salix alba L.), ash (Fraxinus angustifolia Vahl.) and white mulberry (Morus alba L.). We analysed the response to climate and the trends of the following phenophases observed at the field: budburst, leaf unfolding, flowering, fruit ripening, fruit harvesting, leaf colour change and leaf-fall. The study was carried out in 17 sampling sites in the country with the aim of detecting the recent phenological response to the climate of these species, and the possible effect of climate change. We have observed differences in the phenological response to climate depending on each species. Sixty-one percent of studied sites suffered an advance of early spring phenophases, especially budburst on average by −0.67 days and flowering on average by −0.15 days during the studied period, and also in the subsequent fruit ripening and harvesting phases on average by −1.06 days. By contrast, it has been detected that 63% of sampling sites showed a delay in autumn vegetative phases, especially leaf-fall events on average by +1.15 days. The statistic correlation analysis shows in the 55% of the studied localities that phenological advances are the consequence of the increasing trend detected for temperature—being minimum temperature the most influential factor—and in the 52% of them, phenological advances occurred by rainfall variations. In general, leaf unfolding and flowering from these species showed negative correlations in relation to temperature and rainfall, whereas that leaf colour change and leaf-fall presented positive correlations. The results obtained have a great relevance due to the fact that they can be considered as reliable bio-indicators of the impact of the recent climate changes in southern Europe.
The authors are grateful to the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation for the projects FENOCLIM (CGL 2011-24146) and FENOMED (CGL2014-54731-R) and thankful to AEMET (Spanish Meteorology Agency) for providing phenology and meteorological data. Finally, authors would like to dedicate this work to the memory of our colleague Antonio Mestre, meteorologist of the AEMET, recently deceased.
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