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Compound climate extremes driving recent sub-continental tree mortality in northern Australia have no precedent in recent centuries


Allen, KJ and Vernon-Kidd, DC and Sippo, JZ and Baker, PJ, Compound climate extremes driving recent sub-continental tree mortality in northern Australia have no precedent in recent centuries, Scientific Reports, 11 Article 18337. ISSN 2045-2322 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1038/s41598-021-97762-x


Compound climate extremes (CCEs) can have significant and persistent environmental impacts on ecosystems. However, knowledge of the occurrence of CCEs beyond the past ~ 50 years, and hence their ecological impacts, is limited. Here, we place the widespread 2015–16 mangrove dieback and the more recent 2020 inland native forest dieback events in northern Australia into a longer historical context using locally relevant palaeoclimate records. Over recent centuries, multiple occurrences of analogous antecedent and coincident climate conditions associated with the mangrove dieback event were identified in this compilation. However, rising sea level—a key antecedent condition—over the three decades prior to the mangrove dieback is unprecedented in the past 220 years. Similarly, dieback in inland forests and savannas was associated with a multi-decadal wetting trend followed by the longest and most intense drought conditions of the past 250 years, coupled with rising temperatures. While many ecological communities may have experienced CCEs in past centuries, the addition of new environmental stressors associated with varying aspects of global change may exceed their thresholds of resilience. Palaeoclimate compilations provide the much-needed longer term context to better assess frequency and changes in some types of CCEs and their environmental impacts.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:compound events, palaeoclimate, mangroves, eucalyptus, dieback
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Physical geography and environmental geoscience
Research Field:Natural hazards
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate variability (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Allen, KJ (Dr Kathy Allen)
ID Code:147755
Year Published:2021
Deposited By:Geography and Spatial Science
Deposited On:2021-11-15
Last Modified:2021-11-22

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