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      Triggers of tree mortality under drought

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          Abstract

          Severe droughts have caused widespread tree mortality across many forest biomes with profound effects on the function of ecosystems and carbon balance. Climate change is expected to intensify regional-scale droughts, focusing attention on the physiological basis of drought-induced tree mortality. Recent work has shown that catastrophic failure of the plant hydraulic system is a principal mechanism involved in extensive crown death and tree mortality during drought, but the multi-dimensional response of trees to desiccation is complex. Here we focus on the current understanding of tree hydraulic performance under drought, the identification of physiological thresholds that precipitate mortality and the mechanisms of recovery after drought. Building on this, we discuss the potential application of hydraulic thresholds to process-based models that predict mortality.

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          The interdependence of mechanisms underlying climate-driven vegetation mortality.

          Climate-driven vegetation mortality is occurring globally and is predicted to increase in the near future. The expected climate feedbacks of regional-scale mortality events have intensified the need to improve the simple mortality algorithms used for future predictions, but uncertainty regarding mortality processes precludes mechanistic modeling. By integrating new evidence from a wide range of fields, we conclude that hydraulic function and carbohydrate and defense metabolism have numerous potential failure points, and that these processes are strongly interdependent, both with each other and with destructive pathogen and insect populations. Crucially, most of these mechanisms and their interdependencies are likely to become amplified under a warmer, drier climate. Here, we outline the observations and experiments needed to test this interdependence and to improve simulations of this emergent global phenomenon. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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            A multi-species synthesis of physiological mechanisms in drought-induced tree mortality

            Widespread tree mortality associated with drought has been observed on all forested continents and global change is expected to exacerbate vegetation vulnerability. Forest mortality has implications for future biosphere-atmosphere interactions of carbon, water and energy balance, and is poorly represented in dynamic vegetation models. Reducing uncertainty requires improved mortality projections founded on robust physiological processes. However, the proposed mechanisms of drought-induced mortality, including hydraulic failure and carbon starvation, are unresolved. A growing number of empirical studies have investigated these mechanisms, but data have not been consistently analysed across species and biomes using a standardized physiological framework. Here, we show that xylem hydraulic failure was ubiquitous across multiple tree taxa at drought-induced mortality. All species assessed had 60% or higher loss of xylem hydraulic conductivity, consistent with proposed theoretical and modelled survival thresholds. We found diverse responses in non-structural carbohydrate reserves at mortality, indicating that evidence supporting carbon starvation was not universal. Reduced non-structural carbohydrates were more common for gymnosperms than angiosperms, associated with xylem hydraulic vulnerability, and may have a role in reducing hydraulic function. Our finding that hydraulic failure at drought-induced mortality was persistent across species indicates that substantial improvement in vegetation modelling can be achieved using thresholds in hydraulic function.
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              Xylem Structure and the Ascent of Sap

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Nature
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                June 2018
                June 27 2018
                June 2018
                : 558
                : 7711
                : 531-539
                Article
                10.1038/s41586-018-0240-x
                29950621
                108be6af-6aea-40e9-aa81-6860cf9c9e2e
                © 2018

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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