Ecological Research

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 267–277 | Cite as

Effects of canopy phenology on deciduous overstory and evergreen understory carbon budgets in a cool-temperate forest ecosystem under ongoing climate change

  • Taku M. SaitohEmail author
  • Shin Nagai
  • Jun Yoshino
  • Hiroaki Kondo
  • Ichiro Tamagawa
  • Hiroyuki Muraoka
Special Feature Long-term and interdisciplinary research on forest ecosystem functions: Challenges at Takayama site since 1993


Canopy phenology is a key regulator of carbon cycling in forest ecosystems. To clarify its possible effects on carbon budgets of forest ecosystems under ongoing climate change, we developed a canopy-phenology model for a forest with deciduous overstory and evergreen understory based on in situ observations, and used it to improve an ecosystem carbon budget model. Under future conditions (2068–2073) based on the IPCC SRES A1B scenario, leaf expansion began 12.5 ± 1.9 days earlier and leaf-fall ended 11.3 ± 2.7 days later than under current conditions (2002–2007). We also estimated the possible influence of altered light availability on understory vegetation. Even though the photosynthetically active period in the understory (i.e., from the end of spring snowmelt to the beginning of late-autumn snow cover) expanded by 15.7 ± 15.7 days, the total downward photosynthetic photon flux density above this vegetation during the snow-free period decreased by 11.8 % because of changing overstory canopy phenology. The net effect of these changes increased ecosystem-level annual gross primary production (GPP) by 12.5 %, net primary production (NPP) by 12.0 %, and net ecosystem production by 12.1 %, especially in late spring (when the highest solar radiation occurred). The increased GPP and NPP were mostly attributable to changes in overstory vegetation. Our analysis indicates that understanding the temporal variation of canopy phenology dynamics and snow cover is important and that the effects of vegetation phenology on the carbon cycle should be evaluated in future climate change studies.


Canopy phenology Carbon budget Climate change Snow cover Understory vegetation 



We thank S. Murayama of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and N. Saigusa of the National Institute for Environmental Studies for providing detailed meteorological and eddy-covariance data for TKY. This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI program (Grant numbers 23710005 and 24241008) and by the JSPS Funding Program for Next Generation World-Leading Researchers (principal investigator H.M).


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Taku M. Saitoh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shin Nagai
    • 2
  • Jun Yoshino
    • 3
  • Hiroaki Kondo
    • 4
  • Ichiro Tamagawa
    • 1
  • Hiroyuki Muraoka
    • 1
  1. 1.River Basin Research CenterGifu UniversityGifuJapan
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Geochemical Cycle ResearchJapan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and TechnologyYokohamaJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of EngineeringGifu UniversityGifuJapan
  4. 4.National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)TsukubaJapan

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