Phenology responses to climate change in the understorey of temperate forests - Implications for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

01 November 2020 → 31 October 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Other biological sciences not elsewhere classified
phenology understorey climate change
Project description

Climate change is giving rise to redistribution and local extinction of species all around the world and is, due to ongoing warming, expected to become an important driver of biodiversity loss. As a response to climate change, many species are altering the timing of their life cycle events, such as the timing of leaf emergence or flowering, in an attempt to cope with their changing environment. Many of such ‘phenology’ changes have been documented for trees in temperate forests, with important implications for total forest productivity and interactions among species. Far less is known about phenology changes occurring in the understorey of temperate forests, the herbs and grasses growing on the forest floor. While microclimate instead of macroclimate is expected to affect their phenology, the understorey’s response to climate change is expected to be more complex than that of the tree layer. This study aims at bringing together and expanding current evidence on phenology shifts in the understorey of temperate forests, using a combination of observational and experimental data, quantifying the understorey’s response to macroclimate and microclimate change. The main findings will be integrated in an existing process-based model to study the effects of phenology shifts on community reordering in the understorey. This study will yield insights that can guide management of temperate forests towards systems that are more resilient against climate change.