Greater capacity to exploit warming temperatures in northern populations of European beech is partly driven by delayed leaf senescence

Homero Alejandro Garate Escamilla, Craig C. Brelsford, Arndt Hampe, T Matthew Robson, Marta Benito Garzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


One of the most widespread consequences of climate change is the disruption of trees’ phenological cycles. The extent to which tree phenology varies with local climate is largely genetically determined, and while a combination of temperature and photoperiodic cues are typically found to trigger bud burst (BB) in spring, it has proven harder to identify the main cues driving leaf senescence (LS) in autumn. We used 905 individual field observations of BB and LS from six Fagus sylvatica populations, covering the range of environmental conditions found across the species distribution, to: (i) estimate the dates of BB and LS of these populations; (ii) assess the main drivers of LS; and (iii) predict the likely variation in growing season length (GSL; defined as the period from BB to LS timing) across populations under current and future climate scenarios. To this end, we first calibrated linear mixed-effects models for LS as a function of temperature, insolation and BB date. Secondly, we calculated GSL for each population as the number of days between BB and LS. We found that: i) there were larger differences among populations in the date of BB than in the date of LS; ii) the temperature through September, October and November was the main determinant of LS, although covariation of temperature with daily insolation and precipitation-related variables suggests that all three variables may affect LS timing; and iii) GSL was predicted to increase in northern populations and to shrink in central and southern populations under climate change. Consequently, the large present-day differences in GSL across the range of beech are likely to decrease under future climates where rising temperatures will alter the relationship between BB and LS. Northern populations are likely to increase their productivity as warmer conditions will enable them to extend their growing season.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107908
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • Autumn phenology
  • Climate change
  • Environmental factors
  • Fagus sylvatica
  • Provenance effect
  • Spring phenology
  • 1172 Environmental sciences

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