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  1. 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.

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  2. Abstract

    Estimates of the percentage of species “committed to extinction” by climate change range from 15% to 37%. The question is whether factors other than climate need to be included in models predicting species’ range change. We created demographic range models that include climate vs. climate‐plus‐competition, evaluating their influence on the geographic distribution ofPinus edulis, a pine endemic to the semiarid southwestern U.S. Analyses of data on 23,426 trees in 1941 forest inventory plots support the inclusion of competition in range models. However, climate and competition together only partially explain this species’ distribution. Instead, the evidence suggests that climate affects other range‐limiting processes, including landscape‐scale, spatial processes such as disturbances and antagonistic biotic interactions. Complex effects of climate on species distributions—through indirect effects, interactions, and feedbacks—are likely to cause sudden changes in abundance and distribution that are not predictable from a climate‐only perspective.

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  3. Summary

    With climate change, heat waves are becoming increasingly frequent, intense and broader in spatial extent. However, while the lethal effects of heat waves on humans are well documented, the impacts on flora are less well understood, perhaps except for crops. We summarize recent findings related to heat wave impacts including: sublethal and lethal effects at leaf and plant scales, secondary ecosystem effects, and more complex impacts such as increased heat wave frequency across all seasons, and interactions with other disturbances. We propose generalizable practical trials to quantify the critical bounding conditions of vulnerability to heat waves. Collectively, plant vulnerabilities to heat waves appear to be underappreciated and understudied, particularly with respect to understanding heat wave driven plant die‐off and ecosystem tipping points.

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  4. Since the 1980s, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has transformed from an agency predominantly focused on timber production to one focused on recreation and ecosystem management. This shift is particularly remarkable because it occurred without major substantive national forest policy changes. During this period, many national forests changed their forest planning processes in ways that provided greater opportunity for public input into forest plans, and in 2012 the USFS issued new planning rules that institutionalized these practices. In this study, we ask: how has the planning process changed over time, and how have these changes shaped forest plan outcomes? To answer these questions, we conduct a comparative case study of two national forests—the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Inyo National Forest—that produced forest plans in the 1980s and again in the 2010s. We use the Network of Action Situations (NAS) approach to compare planning processes over time and across forests. We find that in addition to the changes mandated by the 2012 rules, both forests developed a series of forums to engage the public in plan development and review, and that increased stakeholder engagement has helped shape forest priorities. These findings suggest that greater involvement by regional stakeholders could pressure the USFS to adopt more regional approaches for addressing challenges like climate change and wildfire risk. 
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    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 priority 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. 
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