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Title: A multi-species synthesis of physiological mechanisms in drought-induced tree mortality

Widespread tree mortality associated with drought has been observed on all forested continents and global change is expected to exacerbate vegetation vulnerability. Forest mortality has implications for future biosphere–atmosphere interactions of carbon, water and energy balance, and is poorly represented in dynamic vegetation models. Reducing uncertainty requires improved mortality projections founded on robust physiological processes. However, the proposed mechanisms of drought-induced mortality, including hydraulic failure and carbon starvation, are unresolved. A growing number of empirical studies have investigated these mechanisms, but data have not been consistently analysed across species and biomes using a standardized physiological framework. Here in this work, we show that xylem hydraulic failure was ubiquitous across multiple tree taxa at drought-induced mortality. All species assessed had 60% or higher loss of xylem hydraulic conductivity, consistent with proposed theoretical and modelled survival thresholds. We found diverse responses in non-structural carbohydrate reserves at mortality, indicating that evidence supporting carbon starvation was not universal. Reduced non-structural carbohydrates were more common for gymnosperms than angiosperms, associated with xylem hydraulic vulnerability, and may have a role in reducing hydraulic function. In conclusion, our finding that hydraulic failure at drought-induced mortality was persistent across species indicates that substantial improvement in vegetation modelling canmore » be achieved using thresholds in hydraulic function.« less
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  1. Oklahoma State Univ., Stillwater, OK (United States)
  2. Macquarie Univ., NSW (Australia); Univ. of Sydney, NSW (Australia)
  3. Univ. of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT (United States)
  4. Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena (Germany)
  5. Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton, AB (Canada)
  6. Western Sydney University, Penrith, NSW (Australia)
  7. Univ. of California, Irvine, CA (United States)
  8. Univ. of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM (United States)
  9. Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE (United States)
  10. U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, Jemez Mountains Field Station, Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  11. Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA (United States)
  12. Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States)
  13. Univ. of Sheffield (United Kingdom)
  14. University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS (Australia)
  15. ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
  16. Univ. of California, Davis, CA (United States)
  17. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  18. Nanchang Institute of Technology (China)
  19. Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie, WY (United States)
  20. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala (Sweden)
  21. University of Coimbra (Portugal)
  22. Northern Arizona Univ., Flagstaff, AZ (United States); US Forest Service, Flagstaff, AZ (United States)
  23. U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Boise, ID (United States)
  24. Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf (Switzerland)
  25. University of Sao Paulo, Piracicaba (Brazil)
  26. Univ. of Oxford (United Kingdom)
  27. Univ. of California, Santa Cruz, CA (United States)
  28. Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA (United States)
  29. Northern Arizona Univ., Flagstaff, AZ (United States)
  30. Fordham University, Armonk, NY (United States)
  31. Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CNRS, Montpellier (France)
  32. U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, DC (United States)
  33. CREAF, Cerdanyola del Valles (Spain); Universitat Autònoma Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Valles (Spain)
  34. ICREA, ICREA-CREAF, Cerdanyola del Valles, Barcelona (Spain); Univ. of Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom)
  35. CSIRO Land and Water, Hobart, TAS (Australia)
  36. Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, La Cañada, Almería (Spain)
  37. Centro de Investigación en Ecosistemas de la Patagonia, Coyhaique (Chile); Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad, Santiago (Chile)
  38. Idaho State Univ., Pocatello, ID (United States)
  39. University of Basilicata, Potenza (Italy)
  40. Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO (United States); USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, CO (United States)
  41. Univ. of Montana, Missoula, MT (United States)
  42. Univ. of Delaware, Newark, DE (United States)
  43. Irstea, UR RECOVER, Aix en Provence (France)
  44. Duke Univ., Durham, NC (United States); University of Western Ontario, London, ON (Canada)
  45. Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora, Ciudad Obregon, SO (Mexico)
  46. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 2397-334X
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature Ecology and Evolution
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 1; Journal Issue: 9; Journal ID: ISSN 2397-334X
Nature Publishing Group
Research Org:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23); USDOE Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; drought; fores mortality; hydraulic failure; carbon starvation
OSTI Identifier: