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PubMed | TU Munich, University of Stirling and Technische University Mnchen Freising
Type: | Journal: Frontiers in plant science | Year: 2015

Damage by late spring frost is a risk deciduous trees have to cope with in order to optimize the length of their growing season. The timing of spring phenological development plays a crucial role, not only at the species level, but also at the population and individual level, since fresh new leaves are especially vulnerable. For the pronounced late spring frost in May 2011 in Germany, we studied the individual leaf development of 35 deciduous trees (mainly European beech Fagus sylvatica L.) at a mountainous forest site in the Bayerischer Wald National Park using repeated digital photographs. Analyses of the time series of greenness by a novel Bayesian multiple change point approach mostly revealed five change points which almost perfectly matched the expected break points in leaf development: (i) start of the first greening between day of the year (DOY) 108-119 (mean 113), (ii) end of greening, and (iii) visible frost damage after the frost on the night of May 3rd/4th (DOY 123/124), (iv) re-sprouting 19-38 days after the frost, and (v) full maturity around DOY 178 (166-184) when all beech crowns had fully recovered. Since frost damage was nearly 100%, individual susceptibility did not depend on the timing of first spring leaf unfolding. However, we could identify significant patterns in fitness linked to an earlier start of leaf unfolding. Those individuals that had an earlier start of greening during the first flushing period had a shorter period of recovery and started the second greening earlier. Thus, phenological timing triggered the speed of recovery from such an extreme event. The maximum greenness achieved, however, did not vary with leaf unfolding dates. Two mountain ashes (Sorbus aucuparia L.) were not affected by the low temperatures of -5C. Time series analysis of webcam pictures can thus improve process-based knowledge and provide valuable insights into the link between phenological variation, late spring frost damage, and recovery within one stand.

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