A large number of episodes of forest mortality associated with drought and heat stress have been detected worldwide in recent decades, suggesting that some of the world’s forested ecosystems may be already responding to climate change. Here, we summarize a special session titled ‘Drought-induced forest decline: causes, scope and implications’ within the 12th European Ecological Federation Congress, held in A ´ vila (Spain) from 25 to 29 September 2011. The session focused on the interacting causes and impacts of die-off episodes at the community and ecosystem levels, and highlighted recent events of drought- and heat-related tree decline, advances in understanding mechanisms and in predicting mortality events, and diverse consequences of forest decline. Talks and subsequent discussion noted a potentially important role of carbon that may be interrelated with plant hydraulics in the multi-faceted process leading to drought-induced mortality; a substantial and yet understudied capacity of many forests to cope with extreme climatic events; and the difficulty of separating climate effects from other anthropogenic changes currently shaping forest dynamics in many regions of the Earth. The need for standard protocols and multi-level monitoring programmes to track the spatiotemporal scope of forest decline globally was emphasized as critical for addressing this emerging environmental issue.
Martínez-Vilalta J., Lloret F., and Breshears D. D. (2012): Drought-induced forest decline: causes, scope and implications. Biology Letters 8: 689-691. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.1059