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Tree Physiol. 2000 Nov;20(17):1175-1182.

Predicting spring phenology and frost damage risk of Betula spp. under climatic warming: a comparison of two models.

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  • 1Department of Forest Ecology, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 24, FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland.


Timing of bud burst and frost damage risk for leaves of Betula spp. in response to climatic warming in Finland was examined with two models. In the first model, ontogenetic development in spring was triggered by an accumulation of chilling temperatures. The second model assumed an additional signal from the light climate. The two models gave radically different estimates of frost damage risk in response to climate warming. The chilling-triggered model forecast a significant and increasing risk with increased warming, whereas the light-climate-triggered model predicted little or no risk. The chilling-triggered model is widely applied in phenological research; however, there is increasing experimental evidence that light conditions play a role in the timing of spring phenology. Although it is not clear if the light response mechanisms are appropriately represented in our model, the results imply that reliance on a light signal for spring development would afford a degree of protection against possible frost damage under climate warming that would not be present if chilling were the sole determinant. Further experimental tests are required to ascertain the light-related mechanisms controlling phenological timing, so that credible model extrapolations can be undertaken.

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