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Effect of ecosystem warming on boreal black spruce bud burst and shoot growth


Dustin R. Bronson, tel. +1 608 262 6369, fax +1 608 262 9922, e-mail:


The boreal forest is predicted to experience the greatest warming of any forest biome during the next 50–100 years, but the effects of warming on vegetation phenology are not well known. The objectives of this study were to (1) examine the effects of whole ecosystem warming on bud burst and annual shoot growth of black spruce trees in northern Manitoba, Canada and (2) correlate bud burst to cumulative degree-days (CDD). The experimental design was a complete randomized block design that consisted of four replicated blocks. Each replicate block contained four treatments: soil warming only (heated outside, HO), soil and air warming (heated inside, HI), control outside (no chamber, no heating, CO), and inside a chamber maintained at ambient conditions (no soil or air warming, control inside, CI). Bud burst was measured during the first and second years of the experiment, starting in 2004, and annual shoot growth was measured for the first 3 years (2004–2006) of the study. On average, shoot bud burst occurred 11 and 9 days earlier in 2004 and 2005, respectively, for HI than for other treatments. However, mean CDD required for bud burst for HI was within the standard deviation of CO for both years. In year 1 of the treatments, shoot bud burst occurred earlier for HI than other treatments (CI, CO, HO), but final shoot length of HI trees was less than in CO trees. In the second year of warming, final shoot length was not different for HI than CO. By the third year of warming final shoot length was significantly greater for HI than all other treatments. Empirical results from this study suggest that soil and air warming causes an earlier bud burst for all years of observation and greater shoot lengths by the third season of warming. A longer growing season and greater annual shoot growth should increase carbon uptake by boreal black spruce trees in a warmer climate.