Global change-type drought-induced tree mortality: vapor pressure deficit is more important than temperature per se in causing decline in tree health
Article first published online: 10 JUL 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Ecology and Evolution
Volume 3, Issue 8, pages 2711–2729, August 2013
How to Cite
Ecology and Evolution 2013; 3(8): 2711–2729
- Issue published online: 12 AUG 2013
- Article first published online: 10 JUL 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 4 JUN 2013
- Manuscript Received: 3 JUN 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 3 JUN 2013
- University of Technology Sydney
- ET ;
- NPP ;
- SPA model;
- tree mortality;
Drought-induced tree mortality is occurring across all forested continents and is expected to increase worldwide during the coming century. Regional-scale forest die-off influences terrestrial albedo, carbon and water budgets, and land-surface energy partitioning. Although increased temperatures during drought are widely identified as a critical contributor to exacerbated tree mortality associated with “global-change-type drought”, corresponding changes in vapor pressure deficit (D) have rarely been considered explicitly and have not been disaggregated from that of temperature per se. Here, we apply a detailed mechanistic soil–plant–atmosphere model to examine the impacts of drought, increased air temperature (+2°C or +5°C), and increased vapor pressure deficit (D; +1 kPa or +2.5 kPa), singly and in combination, on net primary productivity (NPP) and transpiration and forest responses, especially soil moisture content, leaf water potential, and stomatal conductance. We show that increased D exerts a larger detrimental effect on transpiration and NPP, than increased temperature alone, with or without the imposition of a 3-month drought. Combined with drought, the effect of increased D on NPP was substantially larger than that of drought plus increased temperature. Thus, the number of days when NPP was zero across the 2-year simulation was 13 or 14 days in the control and increased temperature scenarios, but increased to approximately 200 days when D was increased. Drought alone increased the number of days of zero NPP to 88, but drought plus increased temperature did not increase the number of days. In contrast, drought and increased D resulted in the number of days when NPP = 0 increasing to 235 (+1 kPa) or 304 days (+2.5 kPa). We conclude that correct identification of the causes of global change-type mortality events requires explicit consideration of the influence of D as well as its interaction with drought and temperature.