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  1. Abstract Temperate understory plant species are at risk from climate change and anthropogenic threats that include increased deer herbivory, habitat loss, pollinator declines and mismatch, and nutrient pollution. Recent work suggests that spring ephemeral wildflowers may be at additional risk due to phenological mismatch with deciduous canopy trees. The study of this dynamic, commonly referred to as “phenological escape”, and its sensitivity to spring temperature is limited to eastern North America. Here, we use herbarium specimens to show that phenological sensitivity to spring temperature is remarkably conserved for understory wildflowers across North America, Europe, and Asia, but that canopy trees in North America are significantly more sensitive to spring temperature compared to in Asia and Europe. We predict that advancing tree phenology will lead to decreasing spring light windows in North America while spring light windows will be maintained or even increase in Asia and Europe in response to projected climate warming. 
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  2. Abstract

    Phenological escape, a strategy that deciduous understory plants use to access direct light in spring by leafing out before the canopy closes, plays an important role in shaping the recruitment of temperate tree seedlings. Previous studies have investigated how climate change will alter these dynamics for herbaceous species, but there is a knowledge gap related to how woody species such as tree seedlings will be affected. Here, we modeled temperate tree seedling leaf‐out phenology and canopy close phenology in response to environmental drivers and used climate change projections to forecast changes to the duration of spring phenological escape. We then used these predictions to estimate changes in annual carbon assimilation while accounting for reduced carbon assimilation rates associated with hotter and drier summers. Lastly, we applied these estimates to previously published models of seedling growth and survival to investigate the net effect on seedling demographic performance. Our models predict that temperate tree seedlings will experience improved phenological escape and, therefore, increased spring carbon assimilation under climate change conditions. However, increased summer respiration costs will offset the gains in spring under extreme climate change leading to a net loss in annual carbon assimilation and demographic performance. Furthermore, we found that annual carbon assimilation predictions depend strongly on the species of nearby canopy tree that seedlings were planted near, with all seedlings projected to assimilate less carbon (and therefore experience worse demographic performance) when planted nearQuercus rubracanopy trees as opposed toAcer saccharumcanopy trees. We conclude that changes to spring phenological escape will have important effects on how tree seedling recruitment is affected by climate change, with the magnitude of these effects dependent upon climate change severity and biological interactions with neighboring adults. Thus, future studies of temperate forest recruitment should account for phenological escape dynamics in their models.

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  3. Abstract

    Understorey plants in deciduous forests often rely on access to ephemeral light availability before the canopy closes in spring and after the canopy reopens in fall, a strategy commonly referred to as phenological escape. Although there is evidence for a relationship between understorey plant phenology and demographic performance, a mechanistic link is still missing.

    In this study, we bridged this gap by estimating annual carbon assimilation as a function of foliar phenology and photosynthetic capacity for seedlings of two temperate tree species that commonly co‐occur across eastern North America. We then modelled the relationship between estimated carbon assimilation and observed seedling survival and growth.

    Our results indicate that seedlings of both species strongly depend on spring phenological escape to assimilate the majority of their annual carbon budget and that this mechanism significantly affects their likelihood of survival (but not growth). Foliar desiccation also played a strong role in driving patterns of seedling survival, suggesting that water availability will also help shape seedling recruitment dynamics. We found only weak associations between seedling senescence in fall and annual carbon assimilation, suggesting that phenological escape in fall plays a relatively minor role in seedling demographic performance.

    Our results indicate that spring phenological escape is critical for survival of these temperate tree species, and thus, any changes to this dynamic associated with climate change could strongly impact these species' recruitment.

    A freePlain Language Summarycan be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

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