Drought effects on carbon cycling The response of forest ecosystems to drought is increasingly important in the context of a warming climate. Anderegg et al. studied a tree-ring database of 1338 forest sites from around the globe. They found that forests exhibit a drought “legacy effect” with 3 to 4 years' reduced growth following drought. During this postdrought delay, forests will be less able to act as a sink for carbon. Incorporating forest legacy effects into Earth system models will provide more accurate predictions of the effects of drought on the global carbon cycle. Science , this issue p. 528
We evaluated the response of the Earth land biomes to drought by correlating a drought index with three global indicators of vegetation activity and growth: vegetation indices from satellite imagery, treering growth series, and Aboveground Net Primary Production (ANPP) records. Arid and humid biomes are both affected by drought, and we suggest that the persistence of the water deficit (i.e., the drought timescale) could be playing a key role in determining the sensitivity of land biomes to drought. We found that arid biomes respond to drought at short time-scales; that is, there is a rapid vegetation reaction as soon as water deficits below normal conditions occur. This may be due to the fact that plant species of arid regions have mechanisms allowing them to rapidly adapt to changing water availability. Humid biomes also respond to drought at short time-scales, but in this case the physiological mechanisms likely differ from those operating in arid biomes, as plants usually have a poor adaptability to water shortage. On the contrary, semiarid and subhumid biomes respond to drought at long timescales, probably because plants are able to withstand water deficits, but they lack the rapid response of arid biomes to drought. These results are consistent among three vegetation parameters analyzed and across different land biomes, showing that the response of vegetation to drought depends on characteristic drought time-scales for each biome. Understanding the dominant time-scales at which drought most influences vegetation might help assessing the resistance and resilience of vegetation and improving our knowledge of vegetation vulnerability to climate change. drought impacts | NDVI | drought adaptation | Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index | drought index
Plant traits-the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants-determine how plants respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels, and influence ecosystem properties and their benefits and detriments to people. Plant trait data thus represent the basis for a vast area of research spanning from evolutionary biology, community and functional ecology, to biodiversity conservation, ecosystem and landscape management, restoration, biogeography and earth system modelling. Since its foundation in 2007, the TRY database of plant traits has grown continuously. It now provides unprecedented data coverage under an open access data policy and is the main plant trait database used by the research community worldwide. Increasingly, the TRY database also supports new frontiers of trait-based plant research, including the identification of data gaps and the subsequent mobilization or measurement of new data. To support this development, in this article we evaluate the extent of the trait data compiled in TRY and analyse emerging patterns of data coverage and representativeness. Best species coverage is achieved for categorical traits-almost complete coverage for 'plant growth form'. However, most traits relevant for ecology and vegetation modelling are characterized by continuous intraspecific variation and trait-environmental relationships. These traits have to be measured on individual plants in their respective environment. Despite unprecedented data coverage, we observe a humbling lack of completeness and representativeness of these continuous traits in many aspects.We, therefore, conclude that reducing data gaps and biases in the TRY database remains a key challenge and requires a coordinated approach to data mobilization and trait measurements. This can only be achieved in collaboration with other initiatives. Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) and DIVERSITAS, the TRY database (TRY-not an acronym, rather a statement of sentiment; https ://www.try-db.org; Kattge et al., 2011) was proposed with the explicit assignment to improve the availability and accessibility of plant trait data for ecology and earth system sciences. The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC) offered to host the database and the different groups joined forces for this community-driven program. Two factors were key to the success of TRY: the support and trust of leaders in the field of functional plant ecology submitting large databases and the long-term funding by the Max Planck Society, the MPI-BGC and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, which has enabled the continuous development of the TRY database.
Abstract:In this study we provide a global assessment of the performance of different drought indices for monitoring drought impacts on several hydrological, agricultural and ecological response variables. For this purpose, we compare the performance of several drought indices (the Standardized Precipitation Index, SPI; four versions of the Palmer Drought Severity Index, PDSI; and the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index, SPEI) to predict changes in streamflow, soil moisture, forest growth and crop yield. We found a superior capability of the SPEI and the SPI drought indices, which are calculated on different time-scales, than the Palmer indices to capture the drought impacts on the aforementioned hydrological, agricultural and ecological variables. We detected small differences in the comparative performance of the SPI and the SPEI indices, but the SPEI was the drought index that best captured the responses of the assessed variables to drought in summer, the season in which more drought-related impacts are recorded and in which drought monitoring is critical. Hence, the SPEI index shows improved capability to identify drought impacts as compared with the SPI one. In conclusion, it seems reasonable to recommend the use of the SPEI if the responses of the variables of interest to drought are not known a priori.
Summary1. Some disturbances can drive ecological systems to abrupt shifts between alternative stages (tipping points) when critical transitions occur. Drought-induced tree death can be considered as a nonlinear shift in tree vigour and growth. However, at what point do trees become predisposed to drought-related dieback and which factors determine this (tipping) point? We investigated these questions by characterizing the responses of three tree species, silver fir (Abies alba), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), to a severe drought event. 2. We compared basal area increment (BAI) trends and responses to climate and drought in declining (very defoliated and dying) vs. non-declining (slightly or not defoliated) trees by using generalized additive mixed models. Defoliation, BAI and sapwood production were related to functional proxies of tree vigour measured at the onset and end of the drought (non-structural carbohydrate concentrations, needle N content and C isotopic discrimination, presence of wood-inhabiting fungi). We evaluated whether early warning signals (increases in synchronicity among trees or in autocorrelation and standard deviation) could be extracted from the BAI series prior to tree death. 3. Declining silver fir and Scots pine trees showed less growth than non-declining trees one to three decades, respectively, before the drought event, whereas Aleppo pines showed growth decline irrespective of tree defoliation. At the end of the drought period, all species showed increased defoliation and a related reduction in the concentration of sapwood soluble sugars. Defoliation was constrained by the BAI of the previous 5 years and sapwood production. No specific wood-inhabiting fungi were found in post-drought declining trees apart from blue-stain fungi, which extensively affected damaged Scots pines. Declining silver firs showed increases in BAI autocorrelation and variability prior to tree death. 4. Synthesis. Early warning signals of drought-triggered mortality seem to be species specific and reflect how different tree species cope with drought stress. Highly correlated declining growth patterns during drought can serve as a signal in silver fir, whereas changes in the content of sapwood soluble sugars are suitable vigour proxies for Scots and Aleppo pines. Longer growth and defoliation series, additional vigour parameters and multi-species comparisons are required to understand and predict drought-induced tree death.
Summary Seasonal radial‐increment and xylogenesis data can help to elucidate how climate modulates wood formation in conifers. Few xylogenesis studies have assessed how plastic xylogenesis is in sympatric conifer species from continental Mediterranean areas, where low winter temperatures and summer drought constrain growth. Here, we analysed intra‐annual patterns of secondary growth in sympatric conifer species (Juniperus thurifera, Pinus halepensis and Pinus sylvestris). Two field sites (xeric and mesic) were evaluated using dendrometers, microcores and climatic data. A bimodal pattern of xylogenesis characterized by spring and autumn precipitation and subsequent cambial reactivation was detected in J. thurifera at both study sites and in P. halepensis at the xeric site, but was absent in P. sylvestris where growth was largely controlled by day length. In the xeric site J. thurifera exhibited an increased response to water availability in autumn relative to P. halepensis and summer cambial suppression was more marked in J. thurifera than in P. halepensis. Juniperus thurifera exhibited increased plasticity in its xylogenesis pattern compared with sympatric pines, enabling this species to occupy sites with more variable climatic conditions. The plastic xylogenesis patterns of junipers in drought‐stressed areas may also provide them with a competitive advantage against co‐occurring pines.
Tree mortality is a key factor influencing forest functions and dynamics, but our understanding of the mechanisms leading to mortality and the associated changes in tree growth rates are still limited. We compiled a new pan-continental tree-ring width database from sites where both dead and living trees were sampled (2970 dead and 4224 living trees from 190 sites, including 36 species), and compared early and recent growth rates between trees that died and those that survived a given mortality event. We observed a decrease in radial growth before death in ca. 84% of the mortality events. The extent and duration of these reductions were highly variable (1-100 years in 96% of events) due to the complex interactions among study species and the source(s) of mortality. Strong and long-lasting declines were found for gymnosperms, shade- and drought-tolerant species, and trees that died from competition. Angiosperms and trees that died due to biotic attacks (especially bark-beetles) typically showed relatively small and short-term growth reductions. Our analysis did not highlight any universal trade-off between early growth and tree longevity within a species, although this result may also reflect high variability in sampling design among sites. The intersite and interspecific variability in growth patterns before mortality provides valuable information on the nature of the mortality process, which is consistent with our understanding of the physiological mechanisms leading to mortality. Abrupt changes in growth immediately before death can be associated with generalized hydraulic failure and/or bark-beetle attack, while long-term decrease in growth may be associated with a gradual decline in hydraulic performance coupled with depletion in carbon reserves. Our results imply that growth-based mortality algorithms may be a powerful tool for predicting gymnosperm mortality induced by chronic stress, but not necessarily so for angiosperms and in case of intense drought or bark-beetle outbreaks.
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