Responses of spring phenology to climate change


Author for correspondence: Franz-W. Badeck Tel: +49 331 2882675 Fax: +49 331 2882695 Email:


Climate change effects on seasonal activity in terrestrial ecosystems are significant and well documented, especially in the middle and higher latitudes. Temperature is a main driver of many plant developmental processes, and in many cases higher temperatures have been shown to speed up plant development and lead to earlier switching to the next ontogenetic stage. Qualitatively consistent advancement of vegetation activity in spring has been documented using three independent methods, based on ground observations, remote sensing, and analysis of the atmospheric CO2 signal. However, estimates of the trends for advancement obtained using the same method differ substantially. We propose that a high fraction of this uncertainty is related to the time frame analysed and changes in trends at decadal time scales. Furthermore, the correlation between estimates of the initiation of spring activity derived from ground observations and remote sensing at interannual time scales is often weak. We propose that this is caused by qualitative differences in the traits observed using the two methods, as well as the mixture of different ecosystems and species within the satellite scenes.