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Temperature as a potent driver of regional forest drought stress and tree mortality

Nature Climate Change

By:
, , , , ,
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1693

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Abstract

As the climate changes, drought may reduce tree productivity and survival across many forest ecosystems; however, the relative influence of specific climate parameters on forest decline is poorly understood. We derive a forest drought-stress index (FDSI) for the southwestern United States using a comprehensive tree-ring data set representing AD 1000–2007. The FDSI is approximately equally influenced by the warm-season vapour-pressure deficit (largely controlled by temperature) and cold-season precipitation, together explaining 82% of the FDSI variability. Correspondence between the FDSI and measures of forest productivity, mortality, bark-beetle outbreak and wildfire validate the FDSI as a holistic forest-vigour indicator. If the vapour-pressure deficit continues increasing as projected by climate models, the mean forest drought-stress by the 2050s will exceed that of the most severe droughts in the past 1,000 years. Collectively, the results foreshadow twenty-first-century changes in forest structures and compositions, with transition of forests in the southwestern United States, and perhaps water-limited forests globally, towards distributions unfamiliar to modern civilization.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Temperature as a potent driver of regional forest drought stress and tree mortality
Series title:
Nature Climate Change
DOI:
10.1038/nclimate1693
Year Published:
2012
Language:
English
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Contributing office(s):
Fort Collins Science Center
Description:
online
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Nature Climate Change
Country:
United States