Autumn phenology plays a key role in regulating the terrestrial carbon and water balance and their feedbacks to the climate. However, the mechanisms underlying autumn phenology are still poorly understood, especially in subtropical forests. In this study, we extracted the autumn photosynthetic transition dates (APTD) in subtropical China over the period 2003-2017 based on a global, fine-resolution solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF) dataset (GOSIF) using four fitting methods, and then explored the temporal-spatial variations of APTD and its underlying mechanisms using partial correlation analysis and machine learning methods. We further predicted the APTD shifts under future climate warming conditions by applying process-based and machine learning-based models. We found that the APTD was significantly delayed, with an average rate of 7.7 days per decade, in subtropical China during 2003-2017. Both partial correlation analysis and machine learning methods revealed that soil moisture was the primary driver responsible for the APTD changes in southern subtropical monsoon evergreen forest (SEF) and middle subtropical evergreen forest (MEF), whereas solar radiation controlled the APTD variations in the northern evergreen-broadleaf deciduous mixed forest (NMF). Combining the effects of temperature, soil moisture and radiation, we found a significantly delayed trend in APTD during the 2030-2100 period, but the trend amplitude (0.8 days per decade) was much weaker than that over 2003-2017. In addition, we found that machine learning methods outperformed process-based models in projecting APTD. Our findings generate from different methods highlight that soil moisture is one of the key players in determining autumn photosynthetic phenological processes in subtropical forests. To comprehensively understand autumn phenological processes, in-situ manipulative experiments are urgently needed to quantify the contributions of different environmental and physiological factors in regulating plants' response to ongoing climate change.