Main content area

Short photoperiod reduces the temperature sensitivity of leaf‐out in saplings of Fagus sylvatica but not in horse chestnut

Fu, Yongshuo H., Piao, Shilong, Zhou, Xuancheng, Geng, Xiaojun, Hao, Fanghua, Vitasse, Yann, Janssens, Ivan A.
Global change biology 2019 v.25 no.5 pp. 1696-1703
Aesculus hippocastanum, Castanea, Fagus sylvatica subsp. sylvatica, ambient temperature, climate, forest ecosystems, forest trees, global warming, growing season, heat, leaves, phenology, photoperiod, saplings, spring, Europe
Leaf phenology is one of the most reliable bioindicators of ongoing global warming in temperate and boreal zones because it is highly sensitive to temperature variation. A large number of studies have reported advanced spring leaf‐out due to global warming, yet the temperature sensitivity of leaf‐out has significantly decreased in temperate deciduous tree species over the past three decades. One of the possible mechanisms is that photoperiod is limiting further advance to protect the leaves against potential damaging frosts. However, the “photoperiod limitation” hypothesis remains poorly investigated and experimentally tested. Here, we conducted a photoperiod‐ and temperature‐manipulation experiment in climate chambers on two common deciduous species in Europe: Fagus sylvatica (European beech, a typically late flushing species) and Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut, a typically early flushing species). In agreement with previous studies, we found that the warming significantly advanced the leaf‐out dates by 4.3 and 3.7 days/°C for beech and horse chestnut saplings, respectively. However, shorter photoperiod significantly reduced the temperature sensitivity of beech only (3.0 days/°C) by substantially increasing the heat requirement to avoid leafing‐out too early. Interestingly, the photoperiod limitation only occurs below a certain daylength (photoperiod threshold) when the warming increased above 4°C for beech trees. In contrast, for chestnut, no photoperiod threshold was found even when the ambient air temperature was warmed by 5°C. Given the species‐specific photoperiod effect on leaf phenology, the sequence of the leaf‐out timing among forest tree species may change under future climate warming conditions. Nonphotoperiodic species may benefit from warmer springs by starting the growing season earlier than photoperiodic sensitive species, modifying forest ecosystem structure and functions, but this photoperiod limitation needs to be further investigated experimentally in numerous species.