Nutrient availability alters the correlation between spring leaf-out and autumn leaf senescence dates

Yongshuo H. Fu, Shilong Piao, Nicolas Delpierre, Fanghua Hao, Heikki Hänninen, Xiaojun Geng, Josep Peñuelas, Xuan Zhang, Ivan A. Janssens, Matteo Campioli

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    11 Citations (Scopus)


    © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: Leaf senescence (LS) affects tree fitness, species distribution and ecosystem structure and functioning. The drivers of LS and the processes underlying it have been studied, but the studies have mainly focused on environmental cues and have mainly been based on statistical analyses using in situ data sets. Experimental investigation and field verification of the processes and drivers are thus urgently needed. We conducted a nutrient-addition experiment after a spring-warming experiment in which an ~40-day range of leaf-out (LO) dates was induced in horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and beech (Fagus sylvatica) saplings. We found that both increased nutrient supply and advanced LO date significantly affected the timing of LS, but their effects were opposite, as the former delayed and the latter advanced the senescence. The effects of nutrient supply and LO interacted species specifically. In chestnut, the delay of senescence caused by fertilization increased with the delay of LO and was thus stronger for individuals that flushed late in the spring. On the contrary, in beech the delay of senescence caused by fertilization decreased with the delay of LO and was insignificant for individuals with the latest LO. The experimental findings for beech were confirmed with mature trees at a regional scale. The interactive effect between nutrients and LO on senescence may be associated with variable sensitivity to photoperiod, growth sink limitation and/or direct effect of foliar nutrition on the timing of senescence. Our novel results show that the interactive effects of LO and nutrient supply on the timing of LS should be further addressed experimentally in forthcoming studies. It would also be interesting to consider our results in the further development of phenological models used in assessing the effects of climatic change. The differences found in the present study between horse chestnut and beech suggest that the results found for one species cannot necessarily be generalized to other species, so studies with different temperate tree species are called for.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1277-1284
    JournalTree Physiology
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


    • climate change
    • fertilization
    • leaf senescence
    • legacy effect
    • spring leaf out


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