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Temperature as a potent driver of regional forest drought stress and tree mortality
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A. Park Williams ;  Craig D. Allen ;  Alison K. Macalady ;  Daniel  Griffin ;  Connie  Woodhouse ;  David M. Meko ;  Thomas W. Swetnam ;  Sara A. Rauscher ;  Richard  Seager ;  Henri D. Grissino-Mayer ;  Jeffrey S. Dean ;  Edward R. Cook ;  Chandana  Gangodagamage ;  Michael  Cai ;  Nate G. McDowell 
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As the climate changes, drought may reduce tree productivity and survival across many forest ecosystems; however, the relative influence of specific climate parameters on forest decline is poorly understood. We derive a forest drought-stress index (FDSI) for the southwestern United States using a comprehensive tree-ring data set representing AD 1000-2007. The FDSI is approximately equally influenced by the warm-season vapour-pressure deficit (largely controlled by temperature) and cold-season precipitation, together explaining 82% of the FDSI variability. Correspondence between the FDSI and measures of forest productivity, mortality, bark-beetle outbreak and wildfire validate the FDSI as a holistic forest-vigour indicator. If the vapour-pressure deficit continues increasing as projected by climate models, the mean forest drought-stress by the 2050s will exceed that of the most severe droughts in the past 1,000 years. Collectively, the results foreshadow twenty-first-century changes in forest structures and compositions, with transition of forests in the southwestern United States, and perhaps water-limited forests globally, towards distributions unfamiliar to modern civilization.
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Williams, A. Park; Allen, Craig D.; Macalady, Alison K.; Griffin, Daniel; Woodhouse, Connie A.; Meko, David M.; Swetnam, Thomas W.; Rauscher, Sara A.; Seager, Richard; Grissino-Mayer, Henri D.; Dean, Jeffrey S.; Cook, Edward R.; Gangodagamage, Chandana; Cai, Michael; McDowell, Nate G. 2012. Temperature as a potent driver of regional forest drought stress and tree mortality. Nature Climate Change 3:292-297.
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Data: Temperature as a Potent Driver of Forest Drought Stress and Tree Mortality
Cataloging Information:
climate change; drought stress; FDSI - forest drought stress index; temperature change; tree mortality
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Record Last Updated:
Sep 29, 2014
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