Shifting and extension of phenological periods with increasing temperature along elevational transects in southern Bavaria

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Abstract

The impact of global warming on phenology has been widely studied, and almost consistently advancing spring events have been reported. Especially in alpine regions, an extraordinary rapid warming has been observed in the last decades. However, little is known about phenological phases over the whole vegetation period at high elevations. We observed 12 phenological phases of seven tree species and measured air temperature at 42 sites along four transects of about 1000 m elevational range in the years 2010 and 2011 near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Site- and species-specific onset dates for the phenological phases were determined and related to elevation, temperature lapse rates and site-specific temperature sums. Increasing temperatures induced advanced spring and delayed autumn phases, in which both yielded similar magnitudes. Delayed leaf senescence could therefore have been underestimated until now in extending the vegetation period. Not only the vegetation period, but also phenological periods extended with increasing temperature. Moreover, sensitivity to elevation and temperature strongly depends on the specific phenological phase. Differences between species and groups of species (deciduous, evergreen, high elevation) were found in onset dates, phenological response rates and also in the effect of chilling and forcing temperatures. Increased chilling days highly reduced forcing temperature requirements for deciduous trees, but less for evergreen trees. The problem of shifted species associations and phenological mismatches due to species-specific responses to increasing temperature is a recent topic in ecological research. Therefore, we consider our findings from this novel, dense observation network in an alpine area of particular importance to deepen knowledge on phenological responses to climate change.

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