"Young buds freeze out because of warming of the planet"
26 February 2018
International team researches frost damage because of warming climate.
At first glance, one might think that plants have a reduced chance to suffer frost damage, as Earth warms. But appearances can be deceiving, as a new study in Nature Communications shows, to which UAntwerp researchers Ivan Janssens and Yongshuo Fu contributed.
“As the climate is warming, plants enter the growing season earlier”, says Ivan Janssens (Global Change Ecology Centre, Research Group Plants and Ecosystems). “Temperature is an important factor triggering the decision of plants to start flowering or budding. As Earth warms up, plants are triggered more rapidly into the growing season.”
But this has important implications, the new study shows. By entering the growing season too early, the chances that plants are susceptible to frost damage also increase. “It might become warmer on average, but this does not prevent frost to occur late in winter or early in spring.”
Climate warming can also trigger extremes, another factor that can trigger late frost days. “Our analysis unambiguously shows that the number of growing season frost days increases, even if the total annual number of frost days decreases. Why? Because plants wake up too early. As a result, plants suffer frost damage.”
The study was performed in the Northern hemisphere. In areas that experience the highest increase in temperature, the number of growing season frost days increased most. This shows that climate warming disturbs vegetation’s natural protection mechanisms against frost damage.
The study was published in the renowned magazine Nature Communications.