25 Sep 2023
 | 25 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Frost matters: Incorporating late-spring frost in a dynamic vegetation model regulates regional productivity dynamics in European beech forests

Benjamin F. Meyer, Allan Buras, Konstantin Gregor, Lucia S. Layritz, Adriana Principe, Jürgen Kreyling, Anja Rammig, and Christian S. Zang

Abstract. Late-spring frost (LSF) is a critical factor influencing the functioning of temperate, forest ecosystems. Frost damage in the form of canopy defoliation impedes the ability of trees to effectively photosynthesize thereby reducing tree productivity. In recent decades, LSF frequency has increased across Europe, likely intensified by the effects of climate change. With increasing warming, many deciduous tree species have shifted towards earlier budburst and leaf development. The earlier start of the growing season not only facilitates forest productivity but also lengthens the period during which trees are most susceptible to LSF. Moreover, recent forest transformation efforts in Europe intended to increase forest resilience to climate change have focused on increasing the share of deciduous species in forests. To assess the ability of forests to remain productive under climate change, dynamic vegetation models (DVMs) have proven to be useful tools. Currently, however, most state-of-the-art DVMs do not model processes related to LSF and the associated impacts. Here, we present a novel LSF module for integration with the dynamic vegetation model LPJ-GUESS. This new model implementation, termed LPJ-GUESS-FROST, provides the ability to directly attribute impacts on simulated forest productivity dynamics to LSF. We use the example of European beech, one of the dominant deciduous species in Central Europe, to demonstrate the functioning of our novel LSF module. Using a network of tree-ring observations from past frost events we show that LPJ-GUESS-FROST can reproduce productivity reductions caused by LSF. Further, to exemplify the effects of including LSF dynamics in DVMs, we run LPJ-GUESS-FROST for a study region in southern Germany for which high-resolution climate observations are available. Here, we show that modeling LSF plays a substantial role in regulating regional NPP and biomass dynamics emphasizing the need for LSF to be more widely accounted for in DVMs.

Benjamin F. Meyer et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2023-139', Anonymous Referee #1, 12 Oct 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2023-139', Anonymous Referee #2, 17 Nov 2023

Benjamin F. Meyer et al.

Model code and software

LPJ-GUESS Release v4.0.1 model code M. Lindeskog, A. Arneth, P. Miller, J. Nord, M. Mischurov, S. Olin, G. Schurgers, B. Smith, D. Wårlind, and past LPJ-GUESS contributors

Benjamin F. Meyer et al.


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Short summary
Late-spring frost (LSF), critically low temperatures when trees have already flushed their leaves, results in freezing damage leaving trees with reduced ability to perform photosynthesis. Forests with a high proportion of susceptible species like European beech are particularly vulnerable. However, this process is rarely included in dynamic vegetation models (DVMs). We show that the effect on simulated productivity and biomass is substantial, warranting more widespread inclusion of LSF in DVMs.