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  1. Abstract

    Tree die-off, driven by extreme drought and exacerbated by a warming climate, is occurring rapidly across every wooded continent—threatening carbon sinks and other ecosystem services provided by forests and woodlands. Forecasting the spatial patterns of tree die-off in response to drought is a priority for the management and conservation of forested ecosystems under projected future hotter and drier climates. Several thresholds derived from drought-metrics have been proposed to predict mortality ofPinus edulis,a model tree species in many studies of drought-induced tree die-off. To improve future capacity to forecast tree mortality, we used a severe drought as a natural experiment. We compared the ability of existing mortality thresholds derived from four drought metrics (the Forest Drought Severity Index (FDSI), the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index, and raw values of precipitation (PPT) and vapor pressure deficit, calculated using 4 km PRISM data) to predict areas ofP. edulisdie-off following an extreme drought in 2018 across the southwestern US. Using aerial detection surveys of tree mortality in combination with gridded climate data, we calculated the agreement between these four proposed thresholds and the presence and absence of regional-scale tree die-off using sensitivity, specificity, and the area under the curve (AUC). Overall, existing mortality thresholdsmore »tended to over predict the spatial extent of tree die-off across the landscape, yet some retain moderate skill in discriminating between areas that experienced and did not experience tree die-off. The simple PPT threshold had the highest AUC score (71%) as well as fair sensitivity and specificity, but the FDSI had the greatest sensitivity to die-off (85.9%). We highlight that empirically derived climate thresholds may be useful forecasting tools to identify vulnerable areas to drought induced die-off, allowing for targeted responses to future droughts and improved management of at-risk areas.

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  2. Abstract

    Earth’s forests face grave challenges in the Anthropocene, including hotter droughts increasingly associated with widespread forest die-off events. But despite the vital importance of forests to global ecosystem services, their fates in a warming world remain highly uncertain. Lacking is quantitative determination of commonality in climate anomalies associated with pulses of tree mortality—from published, field-documented mortality events—required for understanding the role of extreme climate events in overall global tree die-off patterns. Here we established a geo-referenced global database documenting climate-induced mortality events spanning all tree-supporting biomes and continents, from 154 peer-reviewed studies since 1970. Our analysis quantifies a global “hotter-drought fingerprint” from these tree-mortality sites—effectively a hotter and drier climate signal for tree mortality—across 675 locations encompassing 1,303 plots. Frequency of these observed mortality-year climate conditions strongly increases nonlinearly under projected warming. Our database also provides initial footing for further community-developed, quantitative, ground-based monitoring of global tree mortality.

  3. Drought and warming increasingly are causing widespread tree die-offs and extreme wildfires. Forest managers are struggling to improve anticipatory forest management practices given more frequent, extensive, and severe wildfire and tree die-off events triggered by “hotter drought”—drought under warmer than historical conditions. Of even greater concern is the increasing probability of multi-year droughts, or “megadroughts”—persistent droughts that span years to decades, and that under a still-warming climate, will also be hotter than historical norms. Megadroughts under warmer temperatures are disconcerting because of their potential to trigger more severe forest die-off, fire cycles, pathogens, and insect outbreaks. In this Perspective, we identify potential anticipatory and/or concurrent options for non-timber forest management actions under megadrought, which by necessity are focused more at finer spatial scales such as the stand level using higher-intensity management. These management actions build on silvicultural practices focused on growth and yield (but not harvest). Current management options that can be focused at finer scales include key silvicultural practices: selective thinning; use of carefully selected forward-thinking seed mixes; site contouring; vegetation and pest management; soil erosion control; and fire management. For the extreme challenges posed by megadroughts, management will necessarily focus even more on finer-scale, higher-intensity actions for prioritymore »locations such as fostering stand refugia; assisted stand recovery via soil amendments; enhanced root development; deep soil water retention; and shallow water impoundments. Drought-induced forest die-off from megadrought likely will lead to fundamental changes in the structure, function, and composition of forest stands and the ecosystem services they provide.« less
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2024
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  6. Biodiversity contributes to the ecological and climatic stability of the Amazon Basin1,2, but is increasingly threatened by deforestation and fire3,4. Here we quantify these impacts over the past two decades using remote-sensing estimates of fire and deforestation and comprehensive range estimates of 11,514 plant species and 3,079 vertebrate species in the Amazon. Deforestation has led to large amounts of habitat loss, and fires further exacerbate this already substantial impact on Amazonian biodiversity. Since 2001, 103,079–189,755 km2 of Amazon rainforest has been impacted by fires, potentially impacting the ranges of 77.3–85.2% of species that are listed as threatened in this region5. The impacts of fire on the ranges of species in Amazonia could be as high as 64%, and greater impacts are typically associated with species that have restricted ranges. We find close associations between forest policy, fire-impacted forest area and their potential impacts on biodiversity. In Brazil, forest policies that were initiated in the mid-2000s corresponded to reduced rates of burning. However, relaxed enforcement of these policies in 2019 has seemingly begun to reverse this trend: approximately 4,253–10,343 km2 of forest has been impacted by fire, leading to some of the most severe potential impacts on biodiversity since 2009. Thesemore »results highlight the critical role of policy enforcement in the preservation of biodiversity in the Amazon.« less
  7. Abstract

    Trees are suffering mortality across the globe as a result of drought, warming, and biotic attacks. The combined effects of warming and drought onin situtree chemical defenses against herbivory have not been studied to date. To address this, we transplanted mature piñon pine trees—a well-studied species that has undergone extensive drought and herbivore-related mortality—within their native woodland habitat and also to a hotter-drier habitat and measured monoterpene emissions and concentrations across the growing season. We hypothesized that greater needle temperatures in the hotter-drier site would increase monoterpene emission rates and consequently lower needle monoterpene concentrations, and that this temperature effect would dominate the seasonal pattern of monoterpene concentrations regardless of drought. In support of our hypothesis, needle monoterpene concentrations were lower across all seasons in trees transplanted to the hotter-drier site. Contrary to our hypothesis, basal emission rates (emission rates normalized to 30 °C and a radiative flux of 1000μmol m−2s−1) did not differ between sites. This is because an increase in emissions at the hotter-drier site from a 1.5 °C average temperature increase was offset by decreased emissions from greater plant water stress. High emission rates were frequently observed during June, which were not related to plant physiologicalmore »or environmental factors but did not occur below pre-dawn leaf water potentials of −2 MPa, the approximate zero carbon assimilation point in piñon pine. Emission rates were also not under environmental or plant physiological control when pre-dawn leaf water potential was less than −2 MPa. Our results suggest that drought may override the effects of temperature on monoterpene emissions and tissue concentrations, and that the influence of drought may occur through metabolic processes sensitive to the overall needle carbon balance.

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