Chilling outweighs photoperiod in preventing precocious spring development

J. Laube, Tim Sparks, N. Estrella, J. Höfler, D.P. Ankerst, A. Menzel

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    303 Citations (Scopus)


    It is well known that increased spring temperatures cause earlier onset dates of leaf unfolding and flowering. However, a temperature increase in winter may be associated with delayed development when species' chilling requirements are not fulfilled. Furthermore, photosensitivity is supposed to interfere with temperature triggers. To date, neither the relative importance nor possible interactions of these three factors have been elucidated. In this study, we present a multispecies climate chamber experiment to test the effects of chilling and photoperiod on the spring phenology of 36 woody species. Several hypotheses regarding their variation with species traits (successional strategy, floristic status, climate of their native range) were tested. Long photoperiods advanced budburst for one-third of the studied species, but magnitudes of these effects were generally minor. In contrast to prior hypotheses, photosensitive responses were not restricted to climax or oceanic species. Increased chilling length advanced budburst for almost all species; its effect greatly exceeding that of photoperiod. Moreover, we suggest that photosensitivity and chilling effects have to be rigorously disentangled, as the response to photoperiod was restricted to individuals that had not been fully chilled. The results indicate that temperature requirements and successional strategy are linked, with climax species having higher chilling and forcing requirements than pioneer species. Temperature requirements of invasive species closely matched those of native species, suggesting that high phenological concordance is a prerequisite for successful establishment. Lack of chilling not only led to a considerable delay in budburst but also caused substantial changes in the chronological order of species' budburst. The results reveal that increased winter temperatures might impact forest ecosystems more than formerly assumed. Species with lower chilling requirements, such as pioneer or invasive species, might profit from warming winters, if late spring frost events would in parallel occur earlier.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)170-182
    JournalGlobal Change Biology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Bibliographical note

    The full text of this item is not currently available from the repository.
    This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Laube, J. , Sparks, T. , Estrella, N. , Höfler, J. , Ankerst, D.P. and Menzel, A. (2014) Chilling outweighs photoperiod in preventing precocious spring development. Global Change Biology, volume 20 (1): 170-182, which has been published in final form at .


    • asynchrony
    • budburst
    • climate chamber experiment
    • climate change
    • dormancy
    • invasive species
    • phenology
    • photosensitivity
    • successional strategy


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