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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • FATI (Free Air Temperature Increase);
  • leaf senescence;
  • leaf unfolding;
  • phenology;
  • temperate oaks;
  • trees

Summary

  • Because the phenology of trees is strongly driven by environmental factors such as temperature, climate change has already altered the vegetative and repro-ductive phenology of many species, especially in the temperate zone. Here, we aimed to determine whether projected levels of warming for the upcoming decades will lead to linear changes in the phenology of trees or to more complex responses.
  • We report the results of a 3-yr common garden experiment designed to study the phenological response to artificial climate change, obtained through experimental warming and reduced precipitation, of several populations of three European oaks, two deciduous species (Quercus robur, Quercus pubescens) and one evergreen species (Quercus ilex), in a Mediterranean site.
  • Experimental warming advanced the seedlings’ vegetative phenology, causing a longer growing season and higher mortality. However, the rate of advancement of leaf unfolding date was decreased with increasing temperature. Conversely, soil water content did not affect the phenology of the seedlings or their survival.
  • Our results show that the phenological response of trees to climate change may be nonlinear, and suggest that predictions of phenological changes in the future should not be built on extrapolations of current observed trends.