The ISWC has made new progress in the research of impacts of climate change on plant phenology

Update time:2023-10-03
Recently, Professor Liang Guo from the Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, has made new progress in the research of impacts of climate change on plant phenology. Their findings titled “Climatic drivers and ecological implications of variation in the time interval between leaf-out and flowering” have been published in Current Biology, a journal belongs to Cell Press. Xiaowei Liu, a doctoral candidate from the College of Grassland Agriculture, was listed as the co-first author. Prof. Liang Guo, Qiang Yu, Changhui Peng, and Junhu Dai have been the co-corresponding authors.

Fig.1 Impacts of climatic drivers on plant leaf unfolding, flowering and their intervals
Leaf-out and flowering in any given species have evolved to occur in a predetermined sequence, with the inter-stage time interval optimized to maximize plant fitness. Although warming-induced advances of both leaf-out and flowering are well documented, it remains unclear whether shifts in these phenological phases differ in magnitudes and whether changes have occurred in the length of the inter-stage intervals (Fig. 1). 
This team presents an extensive synthesis of warming effects on flower-leaf time intervals, using long-term (1963–2014) and in situ data consisting of 11,858 leaf-out and flowering records for 183 species across China. They found that the timing of both spring phenological events was generally advanced, indicating a dominant impact of forcing conditions compared with chilling. Stable time intervals between leaf-out and flowering prevailed for most of the time series despite increasing temperatures; however, some of the investigated cases featured significant changes in the time intervals. The latter could be explained by differences in the temperature sensitivity (ST) between leaf and flower phenology. Greater ST for flowering than for leaf-out caused flowering times to advance faster than leaf emergence (Fig. 2). This shortened the inter-stage intervals in leaf-first species and lengthened them in flower-first species. Variation in the time intervals between leaf-out and flowering events may have far-reaching ecological and evolutionary consequences, with implications for species fitness, intra/ inter-species interactions, and ecosystem structure, function, and stability.

Fig. 2 Temporal trends of the inter-stage time interval (ISTI) and comparisons of the forcing temperature sensitivity (ST) of leaf-out and flowering
Prof. Guo has devoted himself to research on global change and plant ecology. Combining the controlled experiments, long-term site monitoring, and climatic gradient analysis, this team has made rich findings on the impact of climate change on plant communities, soil nutrient cycles, and microbial function. In particular, sequential and important outputs have emerged in the topic of plant phenology. The relevant work can be found in the link listed below, mainly published in Current Biology and Agricultural and Forest Meteorology (5 papers).
This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Key R&D Program of China, and the Youth Talent Development Program of Northwest A&F University.
To view the relevant online publications, please check here:
1. Current Biology 2023:
2. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 2023:
3. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 2019:
4. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 2017:
5. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 2015:
6. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 2013: