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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-337
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-337
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  14 Oct 2020

14 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Does drought advance the onset of autumn leaf senescence in temperate deciduous forest trees?

Bertold Mariën1, Inge Dox1, Hans J. De Boeck1, Patrick Willems2, Sebastien Leys1, Dimitri Papadimitriou3, and Matteo Campioli1 Bertold Mariën et al.
  • 1PLECO (Plants and Ecosystems), Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, 2160 Wilrijk, Belgium
  • 2Hydraulics Division, KU Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 40, 3001, Leuven, Belgium
  • 3IDLab (Internet Data Lab), Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Antwerp, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium

Abstract.

  • Severe droughts are expected to become more frequent and persistent. However, their effect on autumn leaf senescence, a key process for deciduous trees and ecosystem functioning, is currently unclear. We hypothesized that (I) severe drought advances the onset of autumn leaf senescence in temperate deciduous trees and that (II) tree species show different dynamics of autumn leaf senescence under drought.
  • We tested these hypotheses using a manipulative experiment on beech saplings and three years of monitoring mature beech, birch and oak trees in Belgium. The autumn leaf senescence was derived from the seasonal pattern of the chlorophyll content index and the loss of canopy greenness using generalized additive models and piece-wise linear regressions.
  • Drought did not affect the onset of autumn leaf senescence in both saplings and mature trees, even if the saplings showed a high mortality and the mature trees a high leaf mortality (due to accelerated leaf senescence and early leaf abscission). We did not observe major differences among species.
  • Synthesis: The timing of autumn leaf senescence appears conservative across years and species, and even independent on drought stress. Therefore, to study autumn senescence, seasonal chlorophyll dynamics and loss of canopy greenness should be considered separately.

Bertold Mariën et al.

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Short summary
The drivers of the onset of autumn leaf senescence for several deciduous tree species are still unclear. Therefore, we addressed (i) if drought impacts the timing of autumn leaf senescence and (ii) if the relationship between drought and autumn leaf senescence depends on the tree species. Our study suggests that the timing of autumn leaf senescence is conservative across years and species, and even independent of drought stress.
The drivers of the onset of autumn leaf senescence for several deciduous tree species are still...
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