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Climate Research

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CR 32:201-207 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/cr032201

Farmers’ annual activities are not tracking the speed of climate change

Annette Menzel1,*, Julia von Vopelius1, Nicole Estrella1, Christoph Schleip1, Volker Dose2

1Chair of Ecoclimatology, Department of Ecology, Technical University Munich, Am Hochanger 13, 85354 Freising, Germany
2Max-Planck-Institute for Plasmaphysics, Boltzmannstr. 2, 85748 Garching, Germany

ABSTRACT: Global climate change impacts are already tracked in many physical and biological systems and they reveal a consistent picture of changes, e.g. an earlier onset of spring events in mid and higher latitudes and a lengthening of the plant growing season. However, available results are mainly based on the study of wild plants, whereas only a few studies have hinted at an earlier spring onset for agricultural plants. So far, no comprehensive study has compared phenological shifts between agricultural crops, fruit trees and wild plants. We analysed phenological time series of 93 phases in Germany (1951–2004) employing Bayesian nonparametric function estimation, and found that events related to the production of annual crops clearly differ from spring and summer events in wild plants and fruit trees. While non-farmer driven agricultural events and spring and summer growth stages of wild plants and fruit trees advanced (i.e. occurred earlier) by 4.4 to 7.1 d decade–1, farming indicators, such as sowing and subsequent emergence of spring and winter crops, as well as harvesting, advanced by only 2.1 d decade–1. The estimated functional behaviour and emergence of discontinuous changes are clearly different between the 2 groups. We conclude that phenological responses to temperature changes are only reflected in data of wild plants, fruit trees and those spring growth stages of winter crops and later growth stages of spring crops which are exclusively triggered by climate, while other changes due to agricultural production are subject to management practice alterations.

KEY WORDS: Response · Climate change impact · Temperature · Adaptation · Agriculture · Phenology · Germany · Climate change

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