Climate Change, Drought and Tree Mortality: Pattern, Process, and Prediction
Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
101A, Minneapolis Convention Center
Henry D. Adams, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Alison Macalady, University of Arizona; and
A. Park Williams, Los Alamos National Laboratory
William R. L. Anderegg, Princeton University
Increased tree mortality rates associated with drought and elevated temperature is emerging as a global phenomenon that could be exacerbated with climate change. However spatial patterns and processes related to both the causes and consequences of tree mortality during drought are poorly understood. Forests exert a strong influence on earth system processes that is disproportional to their extent: They account for a large portion of the terrestrial carbon sink, greatly affect landscape energy balance, and strongly influence hydrological cycles. It follows that widespread increases in tree mortality due to drought and higher temperatures could severely disrupt ecological functioning of forests and their climate regulation services to society. However, due to large gaps in our understanding of tree mortality processes, ecosystem models at a variety of scales (including coupled vegetation-climate models) are not currently effective at predicting tree death or its consequences.
Rising recognition of the importance of tree mortality over the past 5 years has prompted much research aimed at elucidating the patterns, processes, and prediction of this forest disturbance. Work focused on the pattern of tree mortality includes developing a monitoring system for rapid detection of forest die-off, quantifying landscape patterns of tree mortality, and relating these patterns to causes. Process-based research on tree mortality includes experimental and observational determination of the physiological mechanism and other causal agents, as well as the consequences of tree mortality for ecosystems, including changes in nutrient, carbon, water, and energy budgets that can affect biosphere-earth system interactions, and the relationships between tree mortality and other forest disturbances. Predictive tree mortality research integrates knowledge of patterns and processes in an effort to understand past disturbance and anticipate climate change effects on forests. This session aims to highlight recent work on the cutting edge of a wide range of tree mortality research. Our goal is to synthesize current and advance future tree mortality research by convening researchers from across an array of ecological sub-disciplines to present their current work on this pressing issue.