European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 135, Issue 6, pp 1011–1023 | Cite as

Elevational response in leaf and xylem phenology reveals different prolongation of growing period of common beech and Norway spruce under warming conditions in the Bavarian Alps

  • Christina KrausEmail author
  • Christian Zang
  • Annette Menzel
Original Paper


Alpine ecosystems face multiple environmental impacts caused by extraordinary rapid warming. One of the impacts caused by rising temperature is the prolongation of the growing season. To determine temperature-driven variation in leaf and xylem phenology, we studied Norway spruce and European beech along two elevational transects in the Northern Limestone Alps, southern Germany. Phenology was observed, and microcore samples were taken regularly from May to October 2011. Microcore thin sections were analyzed for expanding, wall thickening and mature cells in the forming tree ring. Leaf phenology and xylem phenology were compared in respect of onset dates, elevational responses and aspects. Both tree species showed similar responses to elevation in early spring leaf and xylem phenological phases. Delayed start dates and advanced end dates led to shortened growing seasons with elevation for both leaf and xylem development. Elevational responses of phenological phases were similar to each other throughout the growing season in spruce, but only at the beginning of the season for beech. Xylem growth periods from cell expansion until the end of lignification were strongly reduced with elevation for beech, especially the period in which new cells were formed. This was mainly due to an earlier end of xylem cell formation in higher elevations. For spruce, the length of the xylem cell growth period decreased less with elevation. Colder conditions in high elevations seemed to lead to a longer period of cell maturation in spruce. We conclude that with warmer temperature conditions, the tree-ring growth period could be lengthened more in beech compared to spruce, as long as it is not limited by drought stress or unfulfilled chilling requirements.


Xylogenesis Altitudinal gradients Picea abies Fagus sylvatica Alpine forest Growing season 



Our gratitude is directed to the Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment and Consumer Protection for funding the project “Auswirkungen des Klimawandels in den Alpen - Erfassung mittels Höhengradienten” (KLIMAGRAD) within the “Klimaprogramm Bayern 2020.” The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC grant agreement n° [282250]. Supported by the Technische Universität München—Institute for Advanced Study, funded by the German Excellence Initiative.

Supplementary material

10342_2016_990_MOESM1_ESM.tif (274 kb)
Fig. Supplement Gompertz fits on the development of total xylem increment in the year 2011 for Fagus sylvatica and Picea abies on all sites (elevations from 800 to 1400 m a.s.l. and north and south aspect transects). (TIFF 274 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Technische Universität MünchenFreisingGermany
  2. 2.Technische Universität München, Institute for Advanced StudyGarchingGermany

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