Characterizing Growing Season Length of Subtropical Coniferous Forests with a Phenological Model


Understanding plant phenological change is of great concern in the context of global climate change. Phenological models can aid in understanding and predicting growing season changes and can be parameterized with gross primary production (GPP) estimated using the eddy covariance (EC) technique. This study used nine years of EC-derived GPP data from three mature subtropical longleaf pine forests in the southeastern United States with differing soil water holding capacity in combination with site-specific micrometeorological data to parameterize a photosynthesis-based phenological model. We evaluated how weather conditions and prescribed fire led to variation in the ecosystem phenological processes. The results suggest that soil water availability had an effect on phenology, and greater soil water availability was associated with a longer growing season (LOS). We also observed that prescribed fire, a common forest management activity in the region, had a limited impact on phenological processes. Dormant season fire had no significant effect on phenological processes by site, but we observed differences in the start of the growing season (SOS) between fire and non-fire years. Fire delayed SOS by 10 d +/- 5 d (SE), and this effect was greater with higher soil water availability, extending SOS by 18 d on average. Fire was also associated with increased sensitivity of spring phenology to radiation and air temperature. We found that interannual climate change and periodic weather anomalies (flood, short-term drought, and long-term drought), controlled annual ecosystem phenological processes more than prescribed fire. When water availability increased following short-term summer drought, the growing season was extended. With future climate change, subtropical areas of the Southeastern US are expected to experience more frequent short-term droughts, which could shorten the region's growing season and lead to a reduction in the longleaf pine ecosystem's carbon sequestration capacity.

ecosystem physiology, eddy covariance, gross primary production, longleaf pine, phenology, prescribed fire, LAND-SURFACE PHENOLOGY, CARBON UPTAKE, CO2 FLUX, RESEARCH PROGRESS, PINE FOREST, WATER-USE, VEGETATION, ECOSYSTEM, CLIMATE, TEMPERATE, Forestry
Gong, Y., Staudhammer, C., Wiesner, S., Starr, G., Zhang, Y. (2021): Characterizing Growing Season Length of Subtropical Coniferous Forests with a Phenological Model. Forests. 12(1).