Aerial tree mortality surveys show patterns of tree death during extreme drought
Why do some trees die in a drought and others don't? And how can we predict where trees are most likely to die in future droughts?
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, and colleagues examined those questions in a study published in the journal Ecology Letters.
Using climate data and aerial tree mortality surveys conducted by the U.S. Forest Service during four years (2012-2015) of extreme drought in California, they found that when a drought hits the region, trees growing in areas that are already dry are most susceptible.
The research also showed that the effects of drought on forests can take years to surface, suggesting that such effects may linger even after the drought has ended.
SOUTHERN SIERRA NEVADA TREES ARE MOST VULNERABLE
The study said that trees in the driest and densest forests are the most at risk of dying in an extreme drought. In California, that makes crowded stands of trees in the Southern Sierra Nevada the most vulnerable in the state.
The concept is simple: Trees in dense forests are like multiple straws competing for the same glass of water. In wet climate conditions, that competition goes largely unnoticed. But when it's dry, few are able to quench their thirst, setting the stage for mass mortality.
'HOW MUCH DROUGHT A TREE CAN TAKE'
"Our analysis found out how much drought a tree can take," said UC Davis Ph.D. student Derek Young, who co-led the study with Jens Stevens, a UC Davis postdoctoral researcher during the study who is currently at UC Berkeley, and Mason Earles, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University. "If forest managers want to get the biggest bang for their buck in reducing forest vulnerability to drought, this study suggests they should focus on the densest stands in the driest areas. And when we reestablish forests burned by severe wildfire in these areas, we should plant at lower densities from the beginning."
Tree mortality in the Sierra Nevada in 2015 was the worst in recorded history. The U.S. Forest Service aerial tree mortality surveys in 2015 estimated 29 million trees in California had died after four years of extreme drought.
Though the drought began in 2012, major effects on trees did not appear immediately. While some trees died every year, mortality spiked only in the fourth year of extreme drought.
TREE MORTALITY A DELAYED REACTION
In a blog post he wrote on the subject in May 2016, Young noted: "This observation highlights the fact that tree mortality can take several years to respond to drought. Such a delayed response is often observed in studies of drought stress, and the existence of this delayed response hints that we are likely to observe high mortality well into 2016 and potentially beyond, especially in Southern California."
Indeed, surveys conducted by the U.S. Forest Service in 2016 estimated an additional 62 million trees died that year.
Other study co-authors include UC Davis associate professor Andrew Latimer, and Jeffrey Moore, Adam Ellis and Amy Jirka with the USDA Forest Service.
Study authors were supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, EPA STAR Fellowship, and a USDA Hatch Project.
Kat Kerlin | EurekAlert!
New research recovers nutrients from seafood process water
31.10.2018 | Chalmers University of Technology
Plant Hormone Makes Space Farming a Possibility
17.10.2018 | Universität Zürich
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
13.11.2018 | Life Sciences
13.11.2018 | Life Sciences
13.11.2018 | Awards Funding