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  1. Plant growth generally responds positively to an increase in ambient temperature. Hence, most Earth system models project a continuous increase in vegetation cover in the future due to elevated temperatures. Over the last 40 years, a considerable warming trend has affected the alpine ecosystem across the Tibetan Plateau. However, we found vegetation growth in the moderately vegetated areas of the plateau were negatively related to the warming temperatures, thus resulting in a significant degradation of the vegetative cover (LAI: slope  = −0.0026 per year, p  < 0.05). The underlying mechanisms that caused the decoupling of the relationship between vegetation growth and warming in the region were elaborated with the analysis of water and energy variables in the ecosystem. Results indicate that high temperatures stimulated evapotranspiration and increased the water consumption of the ecosystem (with an influence coefficient of 0.34) in these degrading areas, significantly reducing water availability (with an influence coefficient of −0.68) and limiting vegetation growth. Moreover, the negative warming effect on vegetation was only observed in the moderately vegetated areas, as evapotranspiration there predominantly occupied a larger proportion of available water (compared to the wet and highly vegetated areas) and resulted in a greater increase in total water consumption in a warmer condition (compared to dry areas with lower levels of vegetation cover). These findings highlight the risk of vegetation degradation in semi-arid areas, with the degree of vulnerability depending on the level of vegetation cover. Furthermore, results demonstrate the central role of evapotranspiration in regulating water stress intensity on vegetation under elevated temperatures. 
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  2. Abstract. Modelling the water transport along the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum is fundamental to estimating and predicting transpiration fluxes. A Finite-difference Ecosystem-scale Tree Crown Hydrodynamics model (FETCH3) for the water fluxes across the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum is presented here. The model combines the water transport pathways into one vertical dimension, and assumes that the water flow through the soil, roots, and above-ground xylem can be approximated as flow in porous media. This results in a system of three partial differential equations, resembling the Richardson–Richards equation, describing the transport of water through the plant system and with additional terms representing sinks and sources for the transfer of water from the soil to the roots and from the leaves to the atmosphere. The numerical scheme, developed in Python 3, was tested against exact analytical solutions for steady state and transient conditions using simplified but realistic model parameterizations. The model was also used to simulate a previously published case study, where observed transpiration rates were available, to evaluate model performance. With the same model setup as the published case study, FETCH3 results were in agreement with observations. Through a rigorous coupling of soil, root xylem, and stem xylem, FETCH3 can account for variable water capacitance, while conserving mass and the continuity of the water potential between these three layers. FETCH3 provides a ready-to-use open access numerical model for the simulation of water fluxes across the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum. 
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  3. Abstract

    Vegetation responds dynamically to local microclimates at both short and long time scales via mechanisms ranging from physiological behaviors, such as stomatal closure, to acclimation and adaptation. These responses influence the carbon, water, and energy cycles directly and are therefore crucial to understanding and predicting Earth system responses to a changing climate. Several recent studies have demonstrated that differences in microclimate can induce structural and functional acclimations, and potentially adaptations, within the same ecosystem. Such microclimate divergence can be caused by variability in slopes, disturbance history, or even localized resource availability. Ecosystem stressors such as low soil water availability, limited photoperiod, or high vapor pressure deficit have been shown to reveal the large impact of the subtle differences within these systems such as the number of sun versus shade leaves or differences in whole‐plant water acquisition and use. These findings highlight the linkages between plant canopy structure and ecosystem function, alongside the need for comprehensive analyses of vegetation within the broader context of its environment. This commentary addresses some of the key implications of ecosystem stress responses and accompanying acclimations across three ecosystem types for ecosystem ecology, plant physiology, ecohydrology and trait‐based modeling of vegetation‐climate dynamics.

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  4. null (Ed.)
  5. Abstract Climate change is altering species’ range limits and transforming ecosystems. For example, warming temperatures are leading to the range expansion of tropical, cold-sensitive species at the expense of their cold-tolerant counterparts. In some temperate and subtropical coastal wetlands, warming winters are enabling mangrove forest encroachment into salt marsh, which is a major regime shift that has significant ecological and societal ramifications. Here, we synthesized existing data and expert knowledge to assess the distribution of mangroves near rapidly changing range limits in the southeastern USA. We used expert elicitation to identify data limitations and highlight knowledge gaps for advancing understanding of past, current, and future range dynamics. Mangroves near poleward range limits are often shorter, wider, and more shrublike compared to their tropical counterparts that grow as tall forests in freeze-free, resource-rich environments. The northern range limits of mangroves in the southeastern USA are particularly dynamic and climate sensitive due to abundance of suitable coastal wetland habitat and the exposure of mangroves to winter temperature extremes that are much colder than comparable range limits on other continents. Thus, there is need for methodological refinements and improved spatiotemporal data regarding changes in mangrove structure and abundance near northern range limits in the southeastern USA. Advancing understanding of rapidly changing range limits is critical for foundation plant species such as mangroves, as it provides a basis for anticipating and preparing for the cascading effects of climate-induced species redistribution on ecosystems and the human communities that depend on their ecosystem services. 
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  6. Abstract

    Forests play an integral role in the terrestrial water cycle and link exchanges of water between the land surface and the atmosphere. To examine the effects of an intermediate disturbance on forest water cycling, we compared vertical profiles of stable water vapor isotopes in two closely located forest sites in northern lower Michigan. At one site, all canopy‐dominant early successional species were stem girdled to induce mortality and accelerate senescence. At both sites, we measured the isotopic composition of atmospheric water vapor at six heights during three seasons (spring, summer, and fall) and paired vertical isotope profiles with local meteorology and sap flux. Disturbance had a substantial impact on local water cycling. The undisturbed canopy was moister, retained more transpired vapor, and at times was poorly mixed with the free atmosphere above the canopy. Differences between the disturbed and undisturbed sites were most pronounced in the summer when transpiration was high. Differences in forest structure at the two sites also led to more isotopically stratified vapor within the undisturbed canopy. Our findings suggest that intermediate disturbance may increase mixing between the surface layer and above‐canopy atmosphere and alter ecosystem‐atmosphere gas exchange.

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