The Annual Cycle of Development of Trees and Process-Based Modelling of Growth to Scale Up From the Tree To the Stand



Climate change affects both the annual cycle of tree development and the processes related to tree growth. The annual cycle of development manifests as observable phenological events such as leaf unfolding, flowering and leaf fall, but also includes less apparent traits, such as changes in frost hardiness and photosynthetic capacity. Seasonality in these traits can be due either to a fixed sequence of events that take place even in a constant environment, or to fluctuations in environmental factors. Thus, in a constant environment, the latter mode of development displays no seasonality. In addition, and depending on the trait considered, the internal state of development affects the tree’s capacity to respond to environmental factors. Given that the effects of climate change on the seasonality of a particular phenological trait may depend on interactions between fixed and fluctuating development traits, in order to explore these effects the entire annual cycle of development must be modelled. The processes related to tree growth include photosynthesis, respiration and allocation at the level of the individual tree; at stand level they include resource availability and biotic interactions. In this chapter we present the general theory of the annual cycle of development of trees, with examples of climate change effects on phenological traits with different mode of development for tree species in the boreal, temperate and Mediterranean zone of Europe. A process-based model on tree growth is outlined, with focus on scaling up from the tree to the stand level in time and space. Examples of climate change are presented, based on a model that couples the annual cycle of development and the growth of trees. Phenological events are characterized by responses to temperature that are under strong selective pressure. Future lines of development in this field of research include an assessment of the adaptive potential of phenological events to climate change. An example of this genetic approach is also presented.


Biomass Europe Attenuation Respiration Assimilation 



This research is part of the strategic research program “Sustainable spatial development of ecosystems, landscapes, seas and regions” which is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Food Quality, and carried out by Wageningen University Research Centre. KK was also supported by the EU-FP6 Network of Excellence EVOLTREE (contract no. 016322). Joy Burrough advised on the English.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of Ecosystem StudiesWageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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