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The influence of local spring temperature variance on temperature sensitivity of spring phenology

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Abstract

The impact of climate warming on the advancement of plant spring phenology has been heavily investigated over the last decade and there exists great variability among plants in their phenological sensitivity to temperature. However, few studies have explicitly linked phenological sensitivity to local climate variance. Here, we set out to test the hypothesis that the strength of phenological sensitivity declines with increased local spring temperature variance, by synthesizing results across ground observations. We assemble ground-based long-term (20–50 years) spring phenology database (PEP725 database) and the corresponding climate dataset. We find a prevalent decline in the strength of phenological sensitivity with increasing local spring temperature variance at the species level from ground observations. It suggests that plants might be less likely to track climatic warming at locations with larger local spring temperature variance. This might be related to the possibility that the frost risk could be higher in a larger local spring temperature variance and plants adapt to avoid this risk by relying more on other cues (e.g., high chill requirements, photoperiod) for spring phenology, thus suppressing phenological responses to spring warming. This study illuminates that local spring temperature variance is an understudied source in the study of phenological sensitivity and highlight the necessity of incorporating this factor to improve the predictability of plant responses to anthropogenic climate change in future studies.

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