Phenological Sensitivity of Early and Late Flowering Species Under Seasonal Warming and Altered Precipitation in a Seminatural Temperate Grassland Ecosystem

Abstract

Shifts in flowering phenology of plants are indicators of climate change. The great majority of existing phenological studies refer solely to gradual warming. However, knowledge on how flowering phenology responds to changes in seasonal variation of warming and precipitation regimes is missing. We report the onset of 22 early (flowering before/within May) and 23 late flowering (flowering after May) species in response to manipulated seasonal warming (equal to + 1.2°C; last 100-year summer/winter warming), additional winter rainfall, and modified precipitation variability (including a 1000-year extreme drought event followed by heavy rainfall) over the growing season in two consecutive years for a species-rich temperate grassland ecosystem. The average onset of flowering (over 2 years) was significantly advanced 3.1 days by winter warming and 1.5 days by summer warming compared to control. Early flowering species responded to seasonal warming in both years, while late-flowering species responded in only 1 year to summer warming. The average onset of early flowering species was significantly advanced, 4.9 days by winter warming and 2.3 days by summer warming. Species-specific analysis showed that even within the early flowering community there were divergences. A positive correlation between plant height and shift in flowering onset was detected under winter warming (R2 = 0.20, p = 0.005). The average onsets of early and late flowering community were affected by neither winter rain nor growing season precipitation variability. Seasonal differences in warming, and particularly winter warming, might alter community dynamics among early and late flowering species which can cause shifts in the seasonal performances of temperate ecosystems.

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Acknowledgements

The research was funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG JE 282/6-1) and by the “Bavarian Climate Programme 2020” of the Bavarian State Ministry of Sciences, Research and the Arts within the FORKAST research cooperation “Impact of Climate on Ecosystems and Climatic Adaptation Strategies.” Arfin Khan was supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The authors also acknowledge the financial support by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the framework of the BonaRes project SUSALPS (project number: 031B0027C). A special thanks to Peter Wilfahrt for native English editing. We also thank Roman Hein and all actors of the EVENT experiments at the University of Bayreuth for setting up and maintaining the experimental facilities and for helping during field data collection.

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Correspondence to Mohammed A. S. Arfin Khan.

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AJ, CB and JK designed the study. SB and SV performed the research. MASAK analyzed the data and prepared all figures and tables. MASAK wrote the paper with contributions from all authors.

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Arfin Khan, M.A.S., Beierkuhnlein, C., Kreyling, J. et al. Phenological Sensitivity of Early and Late Flowering Species Under Seasonal Warming and Altered Precipitation in a Seminatural Temperate Grassland Ecosystem. Ecosystems 21, 1306–1320 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-017-0220-2

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Keywords

  • climatic extreme
  • drought
  • ecosystem productivity
  • mesic
  • plant–climate interactions
  • phenology
  • plant trait
  • rain
  • seasonal climate change
  • temperature