Delaying effect of humidity on leaf unfolding in Europe

Xujian He, Shanshan Chen, Jinmei Wang, Nicholas G. Smith, Sergio Rossi, Hongjun Yang, Jianquan Liu, Lei Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the drivers of plant phenology is critical to predict the impact of future warming on terrestrial ecosystem carbon cycling and feedbacks to climate. Using indoor growth chambers, air humidity is reported to influence spring phenology in temperate trees. However, previous studies have not investigated the effect of air humidity on the spring phenology using long-term and large-scale ground observations. Therefore, the role of humidity in spring phenology in temperate trees still remains poorly understood. Here, we synthesized 229,588 records of leaf unfolding dates in eight temperate tree species, including four early-successional and four late-successional species, at 1716 observation sites during 1951–2015 in Europe, and comprehensively analyzed the effect of humidity on the spring phenology. We found that rising humidity significantly delayed spring leaf unfolding for all eight temperate tree species. Leaf unfolding was more sensitive to humidity in early-successional species compared to late-successional species. In addition, the delaying effect of humidity on leaf unfolding increased as temperature warmed over the past 65 years. Our results provide evidence that spring leaf unfolding of temperate trees was significantly delayed by rising humidity. The delaying effect of humidity may restrict earlier spring phenology induced by warming, especially for early-successional species, under future climate warming scenarios in temperate forests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149563
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Dec 15 2021


  • Climate change
  • Phenological plasticity
  • Photoperiod
  • Spring phenology
  • Temperate forest


Dive into the research topics of 'Delaying effect of humidity on leaf unfolding in Europe'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this