We use eddy covariance measurements of net ecosystem productivity (NEP) from 21 FLUXNET sites (153 site-years of data) to investigate relationships between phenology and productivity (in terms of both NEP and gross ecosystem photosynthesis, GEP) in temperate and boreal forests. Results are used to evaluate the plausibility of four different conceptual models. Phenological indicators were derived from the eddy covariance time series, and from remote sensing and models. We examine spatial patterns (across sites) and temporal patterns (across years); an important conclusion is that it is likely that neither of these accurately represents how productivity will respond to future phenological shifts resulting from ongoing climate change. In spring and autumn, increased GEP resulting from an 'extra' day tends to be offset by concurrent, but smaller, increases in ecosystem respiration, and thus the effect on NEP is still positive. Spring productivity anomalies appear to have carry-over effects that translate to productivity anomalies in the following autumn, but it is not clear that these result directly from phenological anomalies. Finally, the productivity of evergreen needleleaf forests is less sensitive to phenology than is productivity of deciduous broadleaf forests. This has implications for how climate change may drive shifts in competition within mixed-species stands. © 2010 The Royal Society.
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