A newly identified role of the deciduous forest floor in the timing of green‐up

JGR: Biogeosciences
By: , and 



Plant phenology studies rarely consider controlling factors other than air temperature. We evaluate here the potential significance of physical and chemical properties of soil (edaphic factors) as additional important controls on phenology. More specifically, we investigate causal connections between satellite‐observed green‐up dates of small forest watersheds and soil properties in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, USA. Contrary to the findings of previous studies, where edaphic controls of spring phenology were found to be marginal, our analyses show that at least three factors manifest themselves as significant controls of seasonal patterns of variation in vegetated land surfaces observed from remote sensing: (1) thickness of the forest floor, (2) concentration of exchangeable soil potassium, and (3) soil acidity. For example, a thick forest floor appears to delay the onset of green‐up. Watersheds with elevated concentrations of potassium are associated with early surface greening. We also found that trees growing in strongly acidified watersheds demonstrate delayed green‐up dates. Overall, our work demonstrates that, at the scale of small forest watersheds, edaphic factors can explain a significant percentage of the observed spatial variation in land surface phenology that is comparable to the percentage that can be explained by climatic and landscape factors. We conclude that physical and chemical properties of forest soil play important roles in forest ecosystems as modulators of climatic drivers controlling the rate of spring soil warming and the transition of trees out of winter dormancy.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A newly identified role of the deciduous forest floor in the timing of green‐up
Series title JGR: Biogeosciences
DOI 10.1002/2017JG004073
Volume 122
Issue 11
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) New York Water Science Center
Description 16 p.
First page 2876
Last page 2891
Country United States
State New York
Other Geospatial central New York
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