The ongoing phenological changes in vegetation on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau could modify land surface and atmospheric processes. In this Review, we summarize these changes, their drivers and the resulting impacts. The start of the growing season advanced by 9.4 ± 2.2 days during 1982–1999 and 8.3 ± 2.0 days over 2000–2020, and the end of season delayed by 8.2 ± 1.9 days during 2000–2020. The main identified drivers of these changes are warming temperatures and increasing precipitation, but their impacts vary substantially across the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Other factors, such as grazing and nitrogen deposition, also potentially influence phenological changes, but these relationships are poorly constrained. In manipulation experiments, grazing and nitrogen addition have no individual effects on most phenophase timings at the population level, but nitrogen addition markedly delays flowering. Additionally, there are carry-over effects between phenophases that control subsequent temperature and precipitation responses. Phenological changes in turn could alter species interactions, modulate carbon and water cycling, and affect Asian monsoons and spring rainfall over eastern China, but evidence of these interactions is limited. Harmonization of remote-sensing-based and in situ observations, and simultaneous testing of both biotic and abiotic factors, are needed for a mechanistic understanding of Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau phenology dynamics.
Warming and increasing precipitation on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau are the main climatic factors driving advances in spring phenology and delays in the end of the growing season.
The start of the growing season advanced by 9.4 ± 2.2 and 8.3 ± 2.0 days during 1982–1999 and 2000–2020, respectively, whereas its end was delayed by only 8.2 ± 1.9 days during 2000–2020.
Relative to 2000–2014, the start of the growing season is projected to have advanced by 8.8 days and the end of the season delayed by 14.0 days in 2086–2100 under the Shared Socioeconomic Pathway 5-8.5 (SSP5-8.5).
Phenophase temperature responses depend on soil water availability, with greater temperature sensitivity of the start and end of the season under wetter conditions.
The temperature sensitivities of the start and end of the growing season are greater on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau than in Arctic grasslands, but smaller than those of mid-latitude alpine and subalpine grasslands.
First flowering date is more sensitive to temperature on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau than in Arctic grasslands.
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This research was supported by the following funding: the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program (grant no. 2019QZKK0405), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 41731175, 41988101 and 41875107) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Shen, M., Wang, S., Jiang, N. et al. Plant phenology changes and drivers on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Nat Rev Earth Environ 3, 633–651 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-022-00317-5
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