Microclimatic buffering of plant responses to macroclimate warming in temperate forests.

Work package 1: Observatory: plant data at individual, population, species, community & ecosystem level

Global macroclimate is changing significantly, with a rise in temperature as one of the most studied trends. Less monitored though nevertheless important is the microclimate. As this microclimate can differ considerably from the macroclimate due to local terrain features or vegetation cover, it might protect plants against the consequences of climate change. Forests, which create their own unique microclimatic systems driven by the vegetation structure, can thus buffer organisms against the rising temperature. Therefore, animals and understorey plants would not have to migrate or adapt as quickly as expected.

The goal of WP1 is twofold:

  • To quantify microclimatic buffering and investigate the impact of forest characteristics (tree species composition, management, structure)
  • To study climate - plant performance relationships along different spatial scales


To gain more insight in the establishment of microclimates and to predict the effects of future climate change on understorey species taking into account microclimates. Further, this work package will also provide management guidelines on how to manage forest while focussing on conversation in the face of macroclimate warming.


A macro- and microclimatic plot network was established across four spatial scales: (1) a latitudinal gradient from Norway to central Italy with plots in nine different regions, (2) an altitudinal gradient in three of the selected regions, (3) a management gradient and (4) and gradient from the forest edge towards the core. In addition to macro- and microclimate, the forest structure, soil and litter characteristics and the vegetation community and its functional traits were assessed.

Project set-up.


The work package is coordinated by Sanne Govaert and Camille Meeussen under supervision of Pieter Vangansbeke and Pieter De Frenne.

It is a project in collaboration with the FLEUR network.