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A catastrophic tropical drought kills hydraulically vulnerable tree species


Powers, JS and Vargas G, G and Brodribb, TJ and Schwartz, NB and Perez-Aviles, D and Smith-Martin, CM and Becknell, JM and Aureli, F and Blanco, R and Calderon-Morales, E and Calvo-Alvarado, JC and Calvo-Obando, AJ and Chavarria, MM and Carvajal-Vanegas, D and Jimenez-Rodriguez, CD and Chacon, EM and Schaffner, CM and Werden, LK and Xu, X and Medvigy, D, A catastrophic tropical drought kills hydraulically vulnerable tree species, Global Change Biology, 26, (5) pp. 3122-3133. ISSN 1365-2486 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1111/gcb.15037


Drought-related tree mortality is now a widespread phenomenon predicted to increase in magnitude with climate change. However, the patterns of which species and trees are most vulnerable to drought, and the underlying mechanisms have remained elusive, in part due to the lack of relevant data and difficulty of predicting the location of catastrophic drought years in advance. We used long-term demographic records and extensive databases of functional traits and distribution patterns to understand the responses of 20–53 species to an extreme drought in a seasonally dry tropical forest in Costa Rica, which occurred during the 2015 El Niño Southern Oscillation event. Overall, species-specific mortality rates during the drought ranged from 0% to 34%, and varied little as a function of tree size. By contrast, hydraulic safety margins correlated well with probability of mortality among species, while morphological or leaf economics spectrum traits did not. This firmly suggests hydraulic traits as targets for future research.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Terrestrial ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Adaptation to climate change
Objective Field:Climate change adaptation measures (excl. ecosystem)
UTAS Author:Brodribb, TJ (Professor Tim Brodribb)
ID Code:151175
Year Published:2019
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP170100761)
Web of Science® Times Cited:82
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2022-07-24
Last Modified:2022-07-24

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