Rapid, large-scale tree die-off events are expected to occur with future hotter droughts. Large-scale vegetation change has been shown to cause atmospheric feedbacks both locally and remotely; impacts to vegetation elsewhere via these atmospheric teleconnections occur as ‘ecoclimate teleconnections’. Previous research has demonstrated the potential consequences of ecoclimate teleconnections due to subcontinental tree die-off (i.e., western North America or the Amazon basin). Whether smaller regional change in land cover has the potential to cause ecoclimate teleconnections remains unexplored. We investigate the impact of tree loss using domains delineated by the US National Ecological Observatory Network. We convert forest to grassland in 13 domains using the fully coupled Community Earth System Model (CESM) and evaluate climate and ecological responses.
We show that die-off in these smaller regions has potential to impact disparate regions in North America. We highlight differences in domain sensitivity to external tree die-off. For example, the Alaskan tundra and the Appalachian regions consistently experience changes in temperature that result in increases and declines of Gross Primary Productivity (GPP) respectively, regardless of disturbance location. We find that the magnitude of net changes in GPP do not scale with total area of forest removed, however the amount of land area impacted does scale with area of disturbance. These results highlight the potential importance of ecoclimate teleconnections from die-off at finer scales than previously evaluated and provide a baseline for future estimates from simultaneous tree die-off in disparate regions and more modest die-off scenarios. Notably, the results reveal the need to consider potential subcontinental-scale consequences of regional-scale tree die-for coordination of carbon management across regions.