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Shifts in tree functional composition amplify the response of forest biomass to climate

Shifts in tree functional composition amplify the response of forest biomass to climate
Shifts in tree functional composition amplify the response of forest biomass to climate
Forests have a key role in global ecosystems, hosting much of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and acting as a net sink for atmospheric carbon1. These and other ecosystem services that are provided by forests may be sensitive to climate change as well as climate variability on shorter time scales (for example, annual to decadal)2,3,4. Previous studies have documented responses of forest ecosystems to climate change and climate variability2,3,4, including drought-induced increases in tree mortality rates5. However, relationships between forest biomass, tree species composition and climate variability have not been quantified across a large region using systematically sampled data. Here we use systematic forest inventories from the 1980s and 2000s across the eastern USA to show that forest biomass responds to decadal-scale changes in water deficit, and that this biomass response is amplified by concurrent changes in community-mean drought tolerance, a functionally important aspect of tree species composition. The amplification of the direct effects of water stress on biomass occurs because water stress tends to induce a shift in tree species composition towards species that are more tolerant to drought but are slower growing. These results demonstrate concurrent changes in forest species composition and biomass carbon storage across a large, systematically sampled region, and highlight the potential for climate-induced changes in forest ecosystems across the world, resulting from both direct effects of climate on forest biomass and indirect effects mediated by shifts in species composition.
0028-0836
99-102
Zhang, Tao
b69c0060-2c91-4a60-8e1b-b0e6e9ab84d6
Niinemets, Ülo
d1d1c303-b14b-4783-9e40-74acdde017c9
Sheffield, Justin
dd66575b-a4dc-4190-ad95-df2d6aaaaa6b
Lichstein, Jeremy
5917c99f-79fe-41dc-970f-07059dc5cff1
Zhang, Tao
b69c0060-2c91-4a60-8e1b-b0e6e9ab84d6
Niinemets, Ülo
d1d1c303-b14b-4783-9e40-74acdde017c9
Sheffield, Justin
dd66575b-a4dc-4190-ad95-df2d6aaaaa6b
Lichstein, Jeremy
5917c99f-79fe-41dc-970f-07059dc5cff1

Zhang, Tao, Niinemets, Ülo, Sheffield, Justin and Lichstein, Jeremy (2018) Shifts in tree functional composition amplify the response of forest biomass to climate. Nature, 556, 99-102. (doi:10.1038/nature26152).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Forests have a key role in global ecosystems, hosting much of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and acting as a net sink for atmospheric carbon1. These and other ecosystem services that are provided by forests may be sensitive to climate change as well as climate variability on shorter time scales (for example, annual to decadal)2,3,4. Previous studies have documented responses of forest ecosystems to climate change and climate variability2,3,4, including drought-induced increases in tree mortality rates5. However, relationships between forest biomass, tree species composition and climate variability have not been quantified across a large region using systematically sampled data. Here we use systematic forest inventories from the 1980s and 2000s across the eastern USA to show that forest biomass responds to decadal-scale changes in water deficit, and that this biomass response is amplified by concurrent changes in community-mean drought tolerance, a functionally important aspect of tree species composition. The amplification of the direct effects of water stress on biomass occurs because water stress tends to induce a shift in tree species composition towards species that are more tolerant to drought but are slower growing. These results demonstrate concurrent changes in forest species composition and biomass carbon storage across a large, systematically sampled region, and highlight the potential for climate-induced changes in forest ecosystems across the world, resulting from both direct effects of climate on forest biomass and indirect effects mediated by shifts in species composition.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 21 February 2018
e-pub ahead of print date: 21 March 2018
Published date: 5 April 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 419354
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/419354
ISSN: 0028-0836
PURE UUID: 6b911287-3d45-48cd-8909-c2088c5a5654
ORCID for Justin Sheffield: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2400-0630

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 11 Apr 2018 16:30
Last modified: 23 Jul 2022 04:26

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Contributors

Author: Tao Zhang
Author: Ülo Niinemets
Author: Jeremy Lichstein

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