Testing plant phenophase as proxy: Sensitivity analysis of first flowering data from the 19TH century

A. Lehoczky, B. Szabó, R. Pongrácz, F. Szentkirályi

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Eco-climatological studies recognise plant phenophases as high-confident climate indicators, since they are strongly dependent on heat conditions. We investigated the first flowering response of numerous plant species to inter-annual fluctuation of seasonal temperatures (e.g., heat sensitivity of the phenophase), also the rate of these species-specific sensitivities in order to test their applicability as proxy. From the few available data sources recorded in the Carpathian Basin during the 19th century, the first flowering data sets of 16 plant species and time series of monthly mean temperature (site: Hermannstadt; period: 1851-1891), furthermore the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) were selected for the analysis. We found that the first flowering dates of different plants fluctuated significantly synchronously, however, temporal trends were not detected in any of the time series. Based on the main heat sensitivity characteristics the species were ranked as phyto-thermometers to select the best heat indicator plants. The first flowering data of these indicators were applicable to estimate temperature data. The accuracy of different plants as proxies varied in the range of 1.0 °C and 1.5 °C. Therefore our procedure is of interest in order to better understand past climates of periods at locations where no instrumental records are available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-233
Number of pages21
JournalApplied Ecology and Environmental Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016



  • Effective temperature
  • Flowering onset
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Moving window technique
  • Proxy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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