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Larger temperature response of autumn leaf senescence than spring leaf‐out phenology

Fu, Yongshuo H., Piao, Shilong, Delpierre, Nicolas, Hao, Fanghua, Hänninen, Heikki, Liu, Yongjie, Sun, Wenchao, Janssens, Ivan A., Campioli, Matteo
Global change biology 2018 v.24 no.5 pp. 2159-2168
Fagus sylvatica subsp. sylvatica, autumn, climate, ecosystems, global warming, growing season, leaves, phenology, saplings, spring, summer, temperature profiles, winter
Climate warming is substantially shifting the leaf phenological events of plants, and thereby impacting on their individual fitness and also on the structure and functioning of ecosystems. Previous studies have largely focused on the climate impact on spring phenology, and to date the processes underlying leaf senescence and their associated environmental drivers remain poorly understood. In this study, experiments with temperature gradients imposed during the summer and autumn were conducted on saplings of European beech to explore the temperature responses of leaf senescence. An additional warming experiment during winter enabled us to assess the differences in temperature responses of spring leaf‐out and autumn leaf senescence. We found that warming significantly delayed the dates of leaf senescence both during summer and autumn warming, with similar temperature sensitivities (6–8 days delay per °C warming), suggesting that, in the absence of water and nutrient limitation, temperature may be a dominant factor controlling the leaf senescence in European beech. Interestingly, we found a significantly larger temperature response of autumn leaf senescence than of spring leaf‐out. This suggests a possible larger contribution of delays in autumn senescence, than of the advancement in spring leaf‐out, to extending the growing season under future warmer conditions.