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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Thermal differences between juveniles and adults increased over time in European forest trees

Caron, Maria Mercedes; Zellweger, Florian; Verheyen, Kris; Baeten, Lander; Hedl, Radim; Bernhardt-Roemermann, Markus; Berki, Imre; Brunet, Jorg; Decocq, Guillaume; Diaz, Sandra; Dirnboeck, Thomas; Durak, Tomasz; Heinken, Thilo; Jaroszewicz, Bogdan; Kopecky, Martin; Lenoir, Jonathan; Macek, Martin; Malicki, Marek; Malis, Frantisek; Nagel, Thomas A.;
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Woody species' requirements and environmental sensitivity change from seedlings to adults, a process referred to as ontogenetic shift. Such shifts can be increased by climate change. To assess the changes in the difference of temperature experienced by seedlings and adults in the context of climate change, it is essential to have reliable climatic data over long periods that capture the thermal conditions experienced by the individuals throughout their life cycle. Here we used a unique cross-European database of 2,195 pairs of resurveyed forest plots with a mean intercensus time interval of 37 years. We inferred macroclimatic temperature (free-air conditions above tree canopies-representative of the conditions experienced by adult trees) and microclimatic temperature (representative of the juvenile stage at the forest floor, inferred from the relationship between canopy cover, distance to the coast and below-canopy temperature) at both surveys. We then address the long-term, large-scale and multitaxa dynamics of the difference between the temperatures experienced by adults and juveniles of 25 temperate tree species. We found significant, but species-specific, variations in the perceived temperature (calculated from presence/absence data) between life stages during both surveys. Additionally, the difference of the temperature experienced by the adult versus juveniles significantly increased between surveys for 8 of 25 species. We found evidence of a relationship between the difference of temperature experienced by juveniles and adults over time and one key functional trait (i.e. leaf area). Together, these results suggest that the temperatures experienced by adults versus juveniles became more decoupled over time for a subset of species, probably due to the combination of climate change and a recorded increase of canopy cover between the surveys resulting in higher rates of macroclimate than microclimate warming. Synthesis. We document warming and canopy-cover induced changes in the difference of the temperature experienced by juveniles and adults. These findings have implications for forest management adaptation to climate change such as the promotion of tree regeneration by creating suitable species-specific microclimatic conditions. Such adaptive management will help to mitigate the macroclimate change in the understorey layer.


climate change; forestREplot; microclimate; ontogenetic shift; plant functional traits; resurvey; temperate tree species

Published in

Journal of Ecology
2021, volume: 109, number: 11, pages: 3944-3957
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Caron, Maria Mercedes
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas (CONICET)
Zellweger, Florian
Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research
Verheyen, Kris
Ghent University
Baeten, Lander
Ghent University
Hedl, Radim
Palacky University Olomouc
Bernhardt-Roemermann, Markus
Friedrich Schiller University of Jena
Berki, Imre
University of West Hungary
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre
Decocq, Guillaume
Universite de Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV)
Diaz, Sandra
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas (CONICET)
Dirnboeck, Thomas
Environm Agcy Austria
Durak, Tomasz
University of Rzeszow
Heinken, Thilo
University of Potsdam
Jaroszewicz, Bogdan
University of Warsaw
Kopecky, Martin
Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Kopecky, Martin
Czech University of Life Sciences Prague
Lenoir, Jonathan
Universite de Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV)
Macek, Martin
Institute of Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences
Malicki, Marek
University of Wroclaw
Malis, Frantisek
Technical University Zvolen
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Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

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