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Mechanisms of a coniferous refugium persistence under drought and heat

Environmental Research Letters
By: , and 



Predictions of warmer droughts causing increasing forest mortality are becoming abundant, yet few studies have investigated the mechanisms of forest persistence. To examine the resistance of forests to warmer droughts, we used a five-year precipitation reduction (~45% removal), heat (+4 °C above ambient) and combined drought and heat experiment in an isolated stand of mature Pinus edulis-Juniperus monosperma. Despite severe experimental drought and heating, no trees died, and we observed only minor evidence of hydraulic failure or carbon starvation. Two mechanisms promoting survival were supported. First, access to bedrock water, or 'hydraulic refugia' aided trees in their resistance to the experimental conditions. Second, the isolation of this stand amongst a landscape of dead trees precluded ingress by Ips confusus, frequently the ultimate biotic mortality agent of piñon. These combined abiotic and biotic landscape-scale processes can moderate the impacts of future droughts on tree mortality by enabling tree avoidance of hydraulic failure, carbon starvation, and exposure to attacking abiotic agents.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Mechanisms of a coniferous refugium persistence under drought and heat
Series title Environmental Research Letters
DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/ab0921
Volume 14
Issue 4
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher IOP Publishing
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosys Science Center, Fort Collins Science Center
Description 045014, 14 p.
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