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Earlier wine-grape ripening driven by climatic warming and drying and management practices


Trends in phenological phases associated with climate change are widely reported—yet attribution remains rare. Attribution research in biological systems is critical in assisting stakeholders to develop adaptation strategies, particularly if human factors may be exacerbating impacts1. Detailed, quantified attribution helps to effectively target adaptation strategies, and counters recent tendencies to overattribute phenological trends to climate shifts2. Wine grapes have been ripening earlier in Australia in recent years3, often with undesirable impacts. Attribution analysis of detected trends in wine-grape maturity, using time series of up to 64 years in duration, indicates that two climate variables—warming and declines in soil water content—are driving a major portion of this ripening trend. Crop-yield reductions and evolving management practices have probably also contributed to earlier ripening. Potential adaptation options are identified, as some drivers of the trend to earlier maturity can be manipulated through directed management initiatives, such as managing soil moisture and crop yield.

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Figure 1: Vineyard sites in five regions of southern Australia (see inset map) from where data were accessed.
Figure 2: Response of DOYM to selected drivers for all sites.
Figure 3: Response of DOYM to selected drivers, Central Victorian Shiraz (A).
Figure 4: Time series of DOYM for Shiraz (A) (Central Victoria).


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We wish to thank I. Smith (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), A. Gallant and D. Karoly (University of Melbourne), and P. Hope (Australian Bureau of Meteorology) for discussions. S. Tyerman (University of Adelaide) assisted with understanding of berry physiology. G. Jones (Southern Oregon University) located one of the data sets. L. Chambers, I. MacAdam and A. Hobday reviewed the manuscript. Also, we thank N. White (Main Ridge Estate), A. Purbrick and R. Sutherland (Chateau Tahbilk), S. and B. Chambers (Chambers Rosewood Wines), T. Kent and V. Cullen (Cullen Wines, Western Australia), and P. and S. Henschke (Henschke Wines) who all provided information and records, without which this analysis could not have been done. This work was financially supported in part by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship and also by the Australian Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation.

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L.B.W. and P.H.W. designed the study; L.B.W., P.H.W., J.B. and R.D carried out experiments; L.B.W., J.B., P.H.W. and R.D. analysed data; L.B.W., R.D. and E.W.R.B accessed viticulture data sets, P.R.B. provided climate data sets; L.B.W., P.H.W., J.B., R.D. and P.R.B. wrote the manuscript; E.W.R.B. gave conceptual advice.

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Correspondence to L. B. Webb.

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Webb, L., Whetton, P., Bhend, J. et al. Earlier wine-grape ripening driven by climatic warming and drying and management practices. Nature Clim Change 2, 259–264 (2012).

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