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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 6, 2023
  2. Abstract Desiccation-tolerant (DT) organisms can lose nearly all their water without dying. Desiccation tolerance allows organisms to survive in a nearly completely dehydrated, dormant state. At the cellular level, sugars and proteins stabilize cellular components and protect them from oxidative damage. However, there are few studies of the dynamics and drivers of whole-plant recovery in vascular DT plants. In vascular DT plants, whole-plant desiccation recovery (resurrection) depends not only on cellular rehydration, but also on the recovery of organs with unequal access to water. In this study, in situ natural and artificial irrigation experiments revealed the dynamics of desiccation recovery in two DT fern species. Organ-specific irrigation experiments revealed that the entire plant resurrected when water was supplied to roots, but leaf hydration alone (foliar water uptake) was insufficient to rehydrate the stele and roots. In both species, pressure applied to petioles of excised desiccated fronds resurrected distal leaf tissue, while capillarity alone was insufficient to resurrect distal pinnules. Upon rehydration, sucrose levels in the rhizome and stele dropped dramatically as starch levels rose, consistent with the role of accumulated sucrose as a desiccation protectant. These findings provide insight into traits that facilitate desiccation recovery in dryland ferns associated withmore »chaparral vegetation of southern California.« less
  3. Abstract Widespread drought-induced forest mortality (DIM) is expected to increase with climate change and drought, and is expected to have major impacts on carbon and water cycles. For large-scale assessment and management, it is critical to identify variables that integrate the physiological mechanisms of DIM and signal risk of DIM. We tested whether plant water content, a variable that can be remotely sensed at large scales, is a useful indicator of DIM risk at the population level. We subjected Pinus ponderosa Douglas ex C. Lawson seedlings to experimental drought using a point of no return experimental design. Periodically during the drought, independent sets of seedlings were sampled to measure physiological state (volumetric water content (VWC), percent loss of conductivity (PLC) and non-structural carbohydrates) and to estimate population-level probability of mortality through re-watering. We show that plant VWC is a good predictor of population-level DIM risk and exhibits a threshold-type response that distinguishes plants at no risk from those at increasing risk of mortality. We also show that plant VWC integrates the mechanisms involved in individual tree death: hydraulic failure (PLC), carbon depletion across organs and their interaction. Our results are promising for landscape-level monitoring of DIM risk.
  4. Climate change is increasing fire activity in the western United States, which has the potential to accelerate climate-induced shifts in vegetation communities. Wildfire can catalyze vegetation change by killing adult trees that could otherwise persist in climate conditions no longer suitable for seedling establishment and survival. Recently documented declines in postfire conifer recruitment in the western United States may be an example of this phenomenon. However, the role of annual climate variation and its interaction with long-term climate trends in driving these changes is poorly resolved. Here we examine the relationship between annual climate and postfire tree regeneration of two dominant, low-elevation conifers (ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir) using annually resolved establishment dates from 2,935 destructively sampled trees from 33 wildfires across four regions in the western United States. We show that regeneration had a nonlinear response to annual climate conditions, with distinct thresholds for recruitment based on vapor pressure deficit, soil moisture, and maximum surface temperature. At dry sites across our study region, seasonal to annual climate conditions over the past 20 years have crossed these thresholds, such that conditions have become increasingly unsuitable for regeneration. High fire severity and low seed availability further reduced the probability of postfire regeneration.more »Together, our results demonstrate that climate change combined with high severity fire is leading to increasingly fewer opportunities for seedlings to establish after wildfires and may lead to ecosystem transitions in low-elevation ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir forests across the western United States.

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