Dominant tree species are at risk from exaggerated drought under climate change

Fensham, Roderick J., Fraser, Josie, MacDermott, Harry J, & Firn, Jennifer (2015) Dominant tree species are at risk from exaggerated drought under climate change. Global Change Biology, 21(10), pp. 3777-3785.

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Abstract

Predicting the consequences of climate change on forest systems is difficult because trees may display species-specific responses to exaggerated droughts that may not be reflected by the climatic envelope of their geographic range. Furthermore, few studies have examined the postdrought recovery potential of drought-susceptible tree species. This study develops a robust ranking of the drought susceptibility of 21 tree species based on their mortality after two droughts (1990s and 2000s) in the savanna of north-eastern Australia. Drought-induced mortality was positively related to species dominance, negatively related to the ratio of postdrought seedlings to adults and had no relationship to the magnitude of extreme drought within the species current geographic ranges. These results suggest that predicting the consequences of exaggerated drought on species’ geographic ranges is difficult, but that dominant species like Eucalyptus with relatively slow rates of population recovery and dispersal are the most susceptible. The implications for savanna ecosystems are lower tree densities and basal area.

Impact and interest:

5 citations in Scopus
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5 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 96920
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: climate change, climate envelopes, drought induced tree mortality, recruitment, resilience, savanna
DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12981
ISSN: 1365-2486
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000) > ECOLOGY (060200) > Community Ecology (060202)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Deposited On: 14 Jul 2016 23:20
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2016 21:25

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