An earlier start of the thermal growing season enhances tree growth in cold humid areas but not in dry areas

Shan Gao, Eryuan Liang, Ruishun Liu, Flurin Babst, J. Julio Camarero, Yongshuo H. Fu, Shilong Piao, Sergio Rossi, Miaogen Shen, Tao Wang, Josep Peñuelas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Climatic warming alters the onset, duration and cessation of the vegetative season. While previous studies have shown a tight link between thermal conditions and leaf phenology, less is known about the impacts of phenological changes on tree growth. Here, we assessed the relationships between the start of the thermal growing season and tree growth across the extratropical Northern Hemisphere using 3,451 tree-ring chronologies and daily climatic data for 1948–2014. An earlier start of the thermal growing season promoted growth in regions with high ratios of precipitation to temperature but limited growth in cold–dry regions. Path analyses indicated that an earlier start of the thermal growing season enhanced growth primarily by alleviating thermal limitations on wood formation in boreal forests and by lengthening the period of growth in temperate and Mediterranean forests. Semi-arid and dry subalpine forests, however, did not benefit from an earlier onset of growth and a longer growing season, presumably due to associated water loss and/or more frequent early spring frosts. These emergent patterns of how climatic impacts on wood phenology affect tree growth at regional to hemispheric scales hint at how future phenological changes may affect the carbon sequestration capacity of extratropical forest ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-404
Number of pages8
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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