Intraseasonal climate and habitat-specific variability controls the flowering phenology of high alpine plant species

Authors

  • Karl Hülber,

    Corresponding author
    1. Vienna Institute for Nature Conservation & Analyses; Giessergasse 6/7; A-1090 Vienna, Austria
    2. Department of Conservation Biology, Vegetation Ecology and Landscape Ecology; Faculty Centre of Biodiversity; Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna; Althanstrasse 14; A-1091 Vienna, Austria
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  • Manuela Winkler,

    1. Institute of Botany, Department of Integrative Biology; University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences; Gregor-Mendel-Strasse 33; A-1180 Vienna, Austria
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  • Georg Grabherr

    1. Department of Conservation Biology, Vegetation Ecology and Landscape Ecology; Faculty Centre of Biodiversity; Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna; Althanstrasse 14; A-1091 Vienna, Austria
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Correspondence author. E-mail: karl.huelber@vinca.at

Summary

1.  High alpine plants endure a cold climate with short growing seasons entailing severe consequences of an improper timing of development. Hence, their flowering phenology is expected to be rigorously controlled by climatic factors.

2.  We studied ten alpine plant species from habitats with early and late melting snow cover for 2 years and compared the synchronizing effect of temperature sums (TS), time of snowmelt (SM) and photoperiod (PH) on their flowering phenology. Intraseasonal and habitat-specific variation in the impact of these factors was analysed by comparing predictions of time-to-event models using linear mixed-effects models.

3.  Temperature was the overwhelming trigger of flowering phenology for all species. Its synchronizing effect was strongest at or shortly after flowering indicating the particular importance of phenological control of pollination. To some extent, this pattern masks the common trend of decreasing phenological responses to climatic changes from the beginning to the end of the growing season for lowland species. No carry-over effects were detected.

4.  As expected, the impact of photoperiod was weaker for snowbed species than for species inhabiting sites with early melting snow cover, while for temperature the reverse pattern was observed.

5.  Our findings provide strong evidence that alpine plants will respond quickly and directly to increasing temperature without considerable compensation due to photoperiodic control of phenology.

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