Variation in leaf flushing date influences autumnal senescence and next year's flushing date in two temperate tree species
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Engineering sciences. Technology
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. - Washington, D.C.
, p. 7355-7360
University of Antwerp
Recent temperature increases have elicited strong phenological shifts in temperate tree species, with subsequent effects on photosynthesis. Here, we assess the impact of advanced leaf flushing in a winter warming experiment on the current year's senescence and next year's leaf flushing dates in two common tree species: Quercus robur L. and Fagus sylvatica L. Results suggest that earlier leaf flushing translated into earlier senescence, thereby partially offsetting the lengthening of the growing season. Moreover, saplings that were warmed in winter-spring 2009-2010 still exhibited earlier leaf flushing in 2011, even though the saplings had been exposed to similar ambient conditions for almost 1 y. Interestingly, for both species similar trends were found in mature trees using a long-term series of phenological records gathered from various locations in Europe. We hypothesize that this long-term legacy effect is related to an advancement of the endormancy phase (chilling phase) in response to the earlier autumnal senescence. Given the importance of phenology in plant and ecosystem functioning, and the prediction of more frequent extremely warm winters, our observations and postulated underlying mechanisms should be tested in other species.