Experimental warming studies on tree species and forest ecosystems: A literature review

Haegeun Chung, Hiroyuki Muraoka, Masahiro Nakamura, Saerom Han, Onno Muller, Yowhan Son

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Temperature affects a cascade of ecological processes and functions of forests. With future higher global temperatures being inevitable it is critical to understand and predict how forest ecosystems and tree species will respond. This paper reviews experimental warming studies in boreal and temperate forests or tree species beyond the direct effects of higher temperature on plant ecophysiology by scaling up to forest level responses and considering the indirect effects of higher temperature. In direct response to higher temperature (1) leaves emerged earlier and senesced later, resulting in a longer growing season (2) the abundance of herbivorous insects increased and their performance was enhanced and (3) soil nitrogen mineralization and leaf litter decomposition were accelerated. Besides these generalizations across species, plant ecophysiological traits were highly species-specific. Moreover, we showed that the effect of temperature on photosynthesis is strongly dependent on the position of the leaf or plant within the forest (canopy or understory) and the time of the year. Indirect effects of higher temperature included among others higher carbon storage in trees due to increased soil nitrogen availability and changes in insect performance due to alterations in plant ecophysiological traits. Unfortunately only a few studies extrapolated results to forest ecosystem level and considered the indirect effects of higher temperature. Thus more intensive, long-term studies are needed to further confirm the emerging trends shown in this review. Experimental warming studies provide us with a useful tool to examine the cascade of ecological processes in forest ecosystems that will change with future higher temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-460
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Plant Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jul


  • Climate change
  • Forest ecosystem
  • Global warming
  • Insect-plant interaction
  • Nitrogen cycling
  • Plant phenology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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