Forest and woodland replacement patterns following drought-related mortality

Forest vulnerability to drought is expected to increase under anthropogenic climate change, and drought-induced mortality and community dynamics following drought have major ecological and societal impacts.Here,weshowthattreemortalityconcomitantwithdrought has led to short-term (mean 5 y, range 1 to 23 y after mortality) vegetation-type conversion in multiple biomes across the world (131 sites). Self-replacement of the dominant tree species was only prevalent in 21% of the examined cases and forests and woodlands shifted to nonwoody vegetation in 10% of them. The ultimate temporal persistence of such changes remains unknown but, given the key role of biological legacies in long-term ecological succession, this emerging picture of postdrought ecological trajectories highlights the potential for major ecosystem reorganization in the coming decades. Community changes were less pronounced under wetter postmortality conditions. Replacement was also influenced by management intensity, and postdrought shrub dominance was higher when pathogens acted as codrivers of tree mortality. Early change in communitycompositionindicatesthatforestsdominatedbymesicspecies generally shifted toward more xeric communities, with replacing tree and shrub species exhibiting drier bioclimatic optima and distribution ranges. However, shifts toward more mesic communities also occurred and multiple pathways of forest replacement were observed forsomespecies.Droughtcharacteristics,species-specificenvironmental preferences, plant traits, and ecosystem legacies govern postdrought species turnover and subsequent ecological trajectories, with potential far-reaching implications for forest biodiversity and ecosystem services.



    Publication Type

    Journal articles

    Publication year

    2020

    Authors

    Ermias A

    Keywords

    drought-induced mortality, forest dynamics, forest resilience, global tree mortality, Climate change

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