, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 79–89 | Cite as

Climatic effects on bud break and frost tolerance in the northernmost populations of Beech (Fagus sylvatica) in Europe

  • Christian B. StrømmeEmail author
  • Elisabeth Schmidt
  • Jorunn E. Olsen
  • Line Nybakken
Original Article


Key message

Bud break in European beech is generally known to be under strong photoperiodic control, but our data indicate that bud break in the northernmost populations is temperature limited.


European beech (Fagus sylvatica) is among the dominant tree species in Europe, and is expected to increase its distribution northwards due to climate change. Although spring bud break in European beech is known to be under strong photoperiodic control, studies of populations from high elevations suggest a greater role of temperature in colder environments. This indicates that warming could yield advanced bud break for populations at high elevation and at high latitudes. Using live material collected in winter, spring and autumn from wild populations in Norway, representing the northernmost distribution range of European beech, we tested frost tolerance and effects of temperature and day length on bud break in controlled conditions. Furthermore, we observed bud break during spring in field conditions. Bud break in controlled conditions was faster with later sampling dates and higher temperatures, but showed little or no activity under short photoperiod. Field observations revealed earlier bud break in warmer sites, and remarkably, that bud break dates have advanced by more than 10 days in less than three decades. Frost tolerance tests showed a gradual decrease in bud intactness from January to March, and a gradual increase from October to December. Our data indicate that bud break dates in the northernmost European beech populations are limited by temperature, similar to observations of populations at high elevation in Central Europe. Further warming can thus be expected to yield earlier bud break at the species’ northernmost distribution range, possibly increasing the susceptibility of shoot tips to late spring frost events.


Bud break Frost tolerance Warming Populus tremula Phenology Temperature 



This study was funded by the Research Council of Norway (Grant no. 225018). We wish to thank Ellen Finne at the County Governor of Vestfold for providing help in localising beech stands. We also wish to thank the County Governor of Hordaland and the County Governor of Vestfold for granting permission to collect samples from the nature reserves in Seim (Hordaland) and Holmestrand (Vestfold).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian B. Strømme
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elisabeth Schmidt
    • 1
  • Jorunn E. Olsen
    • 2
  • Line Nybakken
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Faculty of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource ManagementNorwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway
  2. 2.Department of Plant Sciences, Faculty of BiosciencesNorwegian University of Life SciencesÅsNorway

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