The significance of forest mortality on ecosystem services, and water, carbon, and nutrient cycling is indubitable. While there is a general agreement that climate change-induced heat and drought stress is expected to intensify forest mortality, the concurrent influence of changes in atmospheric humidity and CO2 concentration remains unclear. Here, the response of mortality risk to projected climate change is evaluated in 13 biomes across the globe. Our results show that increasing specific humidity and CO2 concentration partially offset the intensification of risk by changing precipitation and air temperature. The risk response is also mediated by plant hydraulic traits. The study provides a mechanistic foundation for estimating future responses of forest mortality risk, which can facilitate ecosystem management.
Climate-induced forest mortality is being increasingly observed throughout the globe. Alarmingly, it is expected to exacerbate under climate change due to shifting precipitation patterns and rising air temperature. However, the impact of concomitant changes in atmospheric humidity and CO2 concentration through their influence on stomatal kinetics remains a subject of debate and inquiry. By using a dynamic soil–plant–atmosphere model, mortality risks associated with hydraulic failure and stomatal closure for 13 temperate and tropical forest biomes across the globe are analyzed. The mortality risk is evaluated in response to both individual and combined changes in precipitation amounts and their seasonal distribution, mean air temperature, specific humidity, and atmospheric CO2 concentration. Model results show that the risk is predicted to significantly increase due to changes in precipitation and air temperature regime for the period 2050–2069. However, this increase may largely get alleviated by concurrent increases in atmospheric specific humidity and CO2 concentration. The increase in mortality risk is expected to be higher for needleleaf forests than for broadleaf forests, as a result of disparity in hydraulic traits. These findings will facilitate decisions about intervention and management of different forest types under changing climate.
Liu, Yanlan, Anthony J. Parolari, Mukesh Kumar, Cheng-Wei Huang, Gabriel G. Katul, and Amilcare Porporato (2017): Increasing atmospheric humidity and CO2 concentration alleviate forest mortality risk. PNAS 114 (37): 9918-9923 . DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1704811114
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.