Contrasting temporal variations in responses of leaf unfolding to daytime and nighttime warming

Jinmei Wang, Zhenxiang Xi, Xujian He, Shanshan Chen, Sergio Rossi, Nicholas Smith, Jianquan Liu, Lei Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Earlier spring phenological events have been widely reported in plants under global warming. Recent studies reported a slowdown in the warming-induced advanced spring phenology in temperate regions. However, previous research mainly focused on daily mean temperature, thus neglecting the asymmetric phenological responses to daytime and nighttime temperature. Using long-term records of leaf unfolding in eight deciduous species at 1300 sites across central Europe, we assessed and compared the effects of daytime temperature, nighttime temperature, and photoperiod on leaf unfolding during 1951–1980 and 1981–2013. Although leaf unfolding was advanced by daytime warming during 1951–2013, the advancing responses of leaf unfolding significantly decreased from 1951–1980 to 1981–2013 due to a lower accumulation of chilling units by daytime warming. Nighttime warming delayed leaf unfolding during 1951–1980 but advanced it during 1981–2013 due to a higher accumulation of chilling units by nighttime warming. In contrast, critical daylength and plasticity of leaf unfolding dates remained unchanged between 1951 and 2013. Our study provided evidence that daytime warming instead of nighttime warming accounts for the slowdown in the advancing spring phenology and implied that nighttime warming-induced earlier spring phenology may be buffering the slowdown of the advanced spring phenology by daytime warming. The response of spring phenology to nighttime temperature may override that to daytime temperature under the actual trends in global warming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5084-5093
JournalGlobal Change Biology
StatePublished - Oct 2021


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