Leaf out time is a widely used indicator of climate change and represents a critical transition point of annual seasonality in most temperate ecosystems. We compared three sources of data to determine the effect of spring temperature on tree leaf out: field observations, remotely sensed satellite data, and experimental warming. All three methods recorded earlier leaf out with warmer spring temperatures. However, leaf out timing was more than twice as sensitive to temperature in the field study (advancing at a rate of 6.1 days/°C), as under experimental warming (2.1 days/°C), with remote sensing intermediate (3.7 days/°C). Researchers need to be aware of the currently unexplained differences among methodologies when using phenological data to parameterize or benchmark models that represent ecosystem processes. The mechanisms behind these discrepancies must be better understood if we are to confidently predict responses of leaf out timing to future climates.
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Funding came from Boston University; Purdue University; University of Massachusetts, Boston; National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) MODIS NNX11AD58G; the National Science Foundation (DEB-0546670); and the United States Department of Energy’s Office of Science (Biological and Environmental Research), through the Northeastern Regional Center of the National Institute for Climate Change Research. C. Goranson and H. Emery provided technical support at BACE. A. Miller-Rushing, I. Ibanez, E. Wolkovich, and P. Templer provided comments. We would like to thank several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.
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Polgar, C.A., Primack, R.B., Dukes, J.S. et al. Tree leaf out response to temperature: comparing field observations, remote sensing, and a warming experiment. Int J Biometeorol 58, 1251–1257 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-013-0718-z
- Remote sensing
- Climate change
- Experimental warming
- Boston-Area Climate Experiment