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      Climate-driven risks to the climate mitigation potential of forests

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          Abstract

          Forests have considerable potential to help mitigate human-caused climate change and provide society with many cobenefits. However, climate-driven risks may fundamentally compromise forest carbon sinks in the 21st century. Here, we synthesize the current understanding of climate-driven risks to forest stability from fire, drought, biotic agents, and other disturbances. We review how efforts to use forests as natural climate solutions presently consider and could more fully embrace current scientific knowledge to account for these climate-driven risks. Recent advances in vegetation physiology, disturbance ecology, mechanistic vegetation modeling, large-scale ecological observation networks, and remote sensing are improving current estimates and forecasts of the risks to forest stability. A more holistic understanding and quantification of such risks will help policy-makers and other stakeholders effectively use forests as natural climate solutions.

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          Most cited references89

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          Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions.

          The severity of damaging human-induced climate change depends not only on the magnitude of the change but also on the potential for irreversibility. This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop. Following cessation of emissions, removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases radiative forcing, but is largely compensated by slower loss of heat to the ocean, so that atmospheric temperatures do not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years. Among illustrative irreversible impacts that should be expected if atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase from current levels near 385 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to a peak of 450-600 ppmv over the coming century are irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions in several regions comparable to those of the "dust bowl" era and inexorable sea level rise. Thermal expansion of the warming ocean provides a conservative lower limit to irreversible global average sea level rise of at least 0.4-1.0 m if 21st century CO(2) concentrations exceed 600 ppmv and 0.6-1.9 m for peak CO(2) concentrations exceeding approximately 1,000 ppmv. Additional contributions from glaciers and ice sheet contributions to future sea level rise are uncertain but may equal or exceed several meters over the next millennium or longer.
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            Cross-scale Drivers of Natural Disturbances Prone to Anthropogenic Amplification: The Dynamics of Bark Beetle Eruptions

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              Forest disturbances under climate change

              Forest disturbances are sensitive to climate. However, our understanding of disturbance dynamics in response to climatic changes remains incomplete, particularly regarding large-scale patterns, interaction effects and dampening feedbacks. Here we provide a global synthesis of climate change effects on important abiotic (fire, drought, wind, snow and ice) and biotic (insects and pathogens) disturbance agents. Warmer and drier conditions particularly facilitate fire, drought and insect disturbances, while warmer and wetter conditions increase disturbances from wind and pathogens. Widespread interactions between agents are likely to amplify disturbances, while indirect climate effects such as vegetation changes can dampen long-term disturbance sensitivities to climate. Future changes in disturbance are likely to be most pronounced in coniferous forests and the boreal biome. We conclude that both ecosystems and society should be prepared for an increasingly disturbed future of forests.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Science
                Science
                American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
                0036-8075
                1095-9203
                June 18 2020
                June 19 2020
                June 19 2020
                June 18 2020
                : 368
                : 6497
                : eaaz7005
                Affiliations
                [1 ]School of Biological Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84113, USA.
                [2 ]Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
                [3 ]World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC 20037, USA.
                [4 ]Resources for the Future, Washington, DC 20036, USA.
                [5 ]Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, Institut Pierre Simon Laplace CNRS CEA UVSQ Gif sur Yvette, 91191, France.
                [6 ]Stanford Law School, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
                [7 ]Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
                [8 ]CarbonPlan, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.
                [9 ]School of Informatics and Computing, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA.
                [10 ]Department of Geography, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA.
                [11 ]School of Earth and Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA.
                [12 ]Department of Earth System Science and Precourt Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
                [13 ]Climate Action Reserve, Los Angeles, CA 90017, USA.
                [14 ]Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA.
                [15 ]Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.
                Article
                10.1126/science.aaz7005
                32554569
                a726bc4e-e333-4ad4-808a-45f665aa5a6e
                © 2020

                http://www.sciencemag.org/about/science-licenses-journal-article-reuse

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