Climate-induced forest mortality is being observed throughout the globe and has the potential to alter ecosystem services provided by forests. Recent studies suggest that forest mortality is expected to be exacerbated under climate change due to intensified water and heat stress. While few dispute the claim that the compound effect of reduced soil water and increased heat stress increases the probability of forest mortality, impacts of other aspects of climate change have not been explored. Specifically, the impacts of concurrent changes in atmospheric humidity and atmospheric CO2 concentration, which may influence stomatal kinetics in ways that allow plants to operate despite reduced plant hydraulic capacity, remain unaddressed. Here, the risk of hydraulic failure (HFR), one of the key factors contributing to forest mortality is investigated by setting up a dynamic soil-plant-atmospheric model. The coupled and isolated responses of HFR to changes in precipitation amount and seasonality, air temperature, atmospheric humidity, and atmospheric CO2 concentration are analyzed. By incorporating CMIP5 climate projections, the synthetic future responses of HFR for 13 forest biomes across the globe are examined. The results indicate that while HFR is predicted to increase under shifting precipitation patterns and elevated air temperature, the increasing risks may be partly compensated by increases in atmospheric humidity and CO2 concentration. The alleviating effects are likely to be more significant for broadleaf forests than those for needleleaf forests. Our findings suggest that contributions of atmospheric humidity and CO2 concentration on HFR, independently of other effects such as seed production, germination, spread, disease outbreak, and resource competition at the community level, may lead to lower risks of forest mortality than previously thought.
Liu, Y.; Parolari, A.; Kumar, M.; Porporato, A. M.; Katul, G. G. (2016): Increasing atmospheric humidity and CO2 concentration alleviate forest hydraulic failure risk. American Geophysical Union 2016 Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA.
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.