Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 April 2018
Phenology is a key ecosystem process that reflects climate–vegetation functioning, and is an indicator of global environmental changes. Recently, it has been suggested that land-use change and timber extraction promote differences in forest phenology. We use remote-sensing data to describe regional leaf phenological patterns in combination with field data from 131 plots in old-growth and disturbed forests distributed over subtropical forests of Argentina (54–65°W). We assessed how climate is related to phenological patterns, and analysed how changes in forest structural characteristics such as stock of above-ground biomass relate to the observed phenological signals across the gradient. We found that the first three axes of a principal component analysis explained 85% of the variation in phenological metrics across subtropical forests, ordering plots mainly along indicators of seasonality and productivity. At the regional scale, the relative importance of forest biomass in explaining variation in phenological patterns was about 15%. Climate showed the highest relative importance, with temperature and rainfall explaining Enhanced Vegetation Index metrics related to seasonality and productivity patterns (27% and 47%, respectively). Within forest types, climate explains the major fraction of variation in phenological patterns, suggesting that forest function may be particularly sensitive to climate change. We found that forest biomass contributed to explaining a proportion of leaf phenological variation within three of the five forest types studied, and this may be related to changes in species composition, probably as a result of forest use.
Centro de Estudios Ambientales Integrados, Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia San Juan Bosco, CONICET. Esquel, Argentina (Present address)