Nate McDowell

Nate McDowell
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | PNNL · Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division

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251
Publications
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Publications

Publications (251)
Article
Full-text available
Forest ecosystems depend on their capacity to withstand and recover from natural and anthropogenic perturbations (that is, their resilience)1. Experimental evidence of sudden increases in tree mortality is raising concerns about variation in forest resilience2, yet little is known about how it is evolving in response to climate change. Here we inte...
Article
Observations of woody plant mortality in coastal ecosystems are globally widespread, but the overarching processes and underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. This knowledge deficiency, combined with rapidly changing water levels, storm surges, atmospheric CO2, and vapor pressure deficit, creates large predictive uncertainty regarding how coas...
Article
Recent observations of elevated tree mortality following climate extremes, like heat and drought, raise concerns about climate change risks to global forest health. We currently lack both sufficient data and understanding to identify whether these observations represent a global trend toward increasing tree mortality. Here, we document events of su...
Article
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Increasing seawater exposure is killing coastal trees globally, with expectations of accelerating mortality with rising sea levels. However, the impact of concomitant changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration, temperature, and vapor pressure deficit (VPD) on seawater‐induced tree mortality is uncertain. We examined the mechanisms of seawater‐induced...
Article
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This ERL focus collection has published 17 papers that have advanced our understanding of different dimensions of warming-induced tree mortality. Here we summarize these focus collection papers, organized by four topics related to tree mortality: pathogens, droughts/heat waves, fire/bark beetles, and teleconnections/air pollution. This focus collec...
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Drought-associated woody-plant mortality has been increasing in most regions with multi-decadal records and is projected to increase in the future, impacting terrestrial climate forcing, biodiversity and resource availability. The mechanisms underlying such mortality, however, are debated, owing to complex interactions between the drivers and the p...
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Sensitivity of forest mortality to drought in carbon-dense tropical forests remains fraught with uncertainty while extreme droughts are predicted to be more frequent and intense. Here, the potential of temporal autocorrelation of high-frequency variability in Landsat Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), an indicator of ecosystem resilience, to predict...
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Abstract Management of forest lands under climate warming poses challenges to managers, some of which are difficult to predict. Examining the trade‐offs associated with forest stewardship choices is essential to avoid consequences associated with loss of natural capital. We utilized LANDIS‐II process model simulations for three forested sites locat...
Article
Short-term plant respiration (R) increases exponentially with rising temperature, but drought could reduce respiration by reducing growth and metabolism. Acclimation may alter these responses. We examined if species with different drought responses would differ in foliar R response to +4.8°C temperature and -45% precipitation in a field experiment...
Article
Increasing severity and frequency of drought is predicted for large portions of the terrestrial biosphere, with major impacts already documented in wet tropical forests. Using a four-year rainfall exclusion experiment in the Daintree Rainforest in northeast Australia, we examined canopy tree responses to reduced precipitation and soil water availab...
Article
Significance Forest decline due to climate change is increasing worldwide. Accurate forecasting of forest dynamics requires a mechanistic understanding of carbon allocation strategies that can link molecular process regulation to whole-tree responses. However, dedicated transdisciplinary investigations spanning these scales are lacking. Here we use...
Article
Sea-level rise is one of the most critical challenges facing coastal ecosystems under climate change. Observations of elevated tree mortality in global coastal forests are increasing, but important knowledge gaps persist concerning the mechanism of salinity stress-induced non-halophytic tree mortality. We monitored progressive mortality and associa...
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Water deficit in the atmosphere and soil are two key interactive factors that constrain transpiration and vegetation productivity. It is not clear which of these two factors is more important for the water and carbon flux response to drought stress in ecosystems. In this study, field data and numerical modeling were used to isolate their impact on...
Article
Increasing seawater exposure is causing mortality of coastal forests, yet the physiological response associated with seawater-induced tree mortality, particularly in non-halophytes, is poorly understood. We investigated the shifts in carbon and nitrogen metabolism of mature Sitka-spruce trees that were dying after an ecosystem-scale manipulation of...
Article
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Deep‐water access is arguably the most effective, but under‐studied mechanism that plants employ to survive during drought. Vulnerability to embolism and hydraulic safety margins can predict mortality risk at given levels of dehydration, but deep‐water access may delay plant dehydration. Here, we tested the role of deep‐water access in enabling sur...
Cover Page
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Representation of Plant Hydraulics in the Noah‐MP Land Surface Model: Model Development and Multiscale Evaluation. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020MS002214
Article
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Plants are expected to face increasing water stress under future climate change. Most land surface models, including Noah‐MP, employ an idealized “big‐leaf” concept to regulate water and carbon fluxes in response to soil moisture stress through empirical soil hydraulics schemes (SHSs). However, such schemes have been shown to cause significant unce...
Article
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Methane (CH4) exchange between trees and the atmosphere has recently emerged as an important, but poorly quantified process regulating global climate. The sources (soil and/or tree) and mechanisms driving the increase of CH4 in trees and degassing to the atmosphere are inadequately understood, particularly for coastal forests facing increased expos...
Article
Plant waxes, including n-alkanes, are commonly used for a wide range of paleo-applications. Several common traits of n-alkanes that are used as paleo-proxies include chain length distribution and average chain length (ACL), as well as plant wax carbon and hydrogen isotopic compositions. The effect of climate on plant wax traits has been the subject...
Article
Increasing sea levels associated with climate change threaten the survival of coastal forests, yet the mechanisms by which seawater exposure causes tree death remain poorly understood. Despite the potentially crucial role of nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) reserves in tree survival, their dynamics in the process of death under seawater exposure ar...
Article
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Leaf-level gas exchange data support the mechanistic understanding of plant fluxes of carbon and water. These fluxes inform our understanding of ecosystem function, are an important constraint on parameterization of terrestrial biosphere models, are necessary to understand the response of plants to global environmental change, and are integral to e...
Article
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Rising atmospheric CO2 may enhance tree growth and mitigate drought impacts through CO2 fertilization. However, multiple studies globally have found that rising CO2 has not translated into greater tree growth despite increases in intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE). The underlying mechanism discriminating between these two general responses to CO...
Article
Plants are characterized by the iso/anisohydry continuum depending on how they regulate leaf water potential (ΨL). However, how iso/anisohydry changes over time in response to year‐to‐year variations in environmental dryness and how such responses vary across different regions remains poorly characterized. We investigated how dryness, represented b...
Article
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Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition has been observed to impact plant structure and functional traits in terrestrial ecosystems. Although the effect of N deposition on plant water use has been well-evaluated in laboratories and in experimental forests, the linkages between water and carbon relations under N deposition are unclear. Here, we report o...
Article
Coastal shoreline forests are vulnerable to seawater exposure, the impacts of which will increase due to sea-level rise, but the long-term adaptation strategies and vulnerability of coastal forests are not well understood. We used whole-tree transpiration, leaf water potential, tree-ring width, and tree-ring δ 13 C (a proxy for intrinsic water use...
Article
Conifer mortality rates are increasing in western North America, but the physiological mechanisms underlying this trend are not well understood. We examined tree‐ring based radial growth along with stable carbon and oxygen isotope composition (d13C and δ18O, respectively) of dying and surviving conifers at eight old‐growth forest sites across a str...
Article
Tropical forests absorb large amounts of atmospheric CO2 through photosynthesis, but high surface temperatures suppress this absorption while promoting isoprene emissions. While mechanistic isoprene emission models predict a tight coupling to photosynthetic electron transport (ETR) as a function of temperature, direct field observations of these ph...
Article
BACKGROUND: Forest dynamics arise from the interplay of chronic drivers and transient disturbances with the demographic processes of recruitment, growth, and mortality. The resulting trajectories of vegetation development drive the biomass and species composition of terrestrial ecosystems. Forest dynamics are changing because of anthropogenic-drive...
Article
Shifting forest dynamics Forest dynamics are the processes of recruitment, growth, death, and turnover of the constituent tree species of the forest community. These processes are driven by disturbances both natural and anthropogenic. McDowell et al. review recent progress in understanding the drivers of forest dynamics and how these are interactin...
Article
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The 2015–2016 El Niño event ranks as one of the most severe on record in terms of the magnitude and extent of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies generated in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Corresponding global impacts on the climate were expected to rival, or even surpass, those of the 1997–1998 severe El Niño event, which had SST anomalies that...
Article
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Between the land and ocean, diverse coastal ecosystems transform, store, and transport material. Across these interfaces, the dynamic exchange of energy and matter is driven by hydrological and hydrodynamic processes such as river and groundwater discharge, tides, waves, and storms. These dynamics regulate ecosystem functions and Earth’s climate, y...
Article
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Recent decades have been characterized by increasing temperatures worldwide, resulting in an exponential climb in vapor pressure deficit (VPD). VPD has been identified as an increasingly important driver of plant functioning in terrestrial biomes including being a major contributor in recent drought‐induced plant mortality, independently from other...
Article
Increasing dryness challenges trees' ability to maintain water transport to the leaves. Most plant hydraulics models use a static xylem response to water stress. Yet in reality, lower soil moisture and warmer temperatures during growing seasons feed back onto xylem development. In turn, adjustments to droughts in the newly built xylem influence fut...
Article
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Drought and N addition have been shown to affect tree hydraulic traits, but few studies have been made on their interactions across species with different wood types or leaf forms. We examined the responses of hydraulic conductance and xylem anatomical traits of Quercus mongolica (ring-porous with simple-leaves), Fraxinus mandshurica (ring-porous w...
Article
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Terrestrial gross primary production (GPP) is the basis of vegetation growth and food production globally1 and plays a critical role in regulating atmospheric CO2 through its impact on ecosystem carbon balance. Even though higher CO2 concentrations in future decades can increase GPP2, low soil water availability, heat stress and disturbances associ...
Article
Aim: Increased atmospheric nitrogen deposition may have profound effects on tree carbon allocation dynamics. However, a comprehensive understanding of how nitrogen (N) enrichment influences carbon (C) allocation across plant functional processes and tree organs in individual trees remains elusive. Location: Global forest ecosystems. Time period: 19...
Article
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Climate change is a worldwide threat to biodiversity and ecosystem structure, functioning, and services. To understand the underlying drivers and mechanisms, and to predict the consequences for nature and people, we urgently need better understanding of the direction and magnitude of climate‐change impacts across the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum...
Preprint
Full-text available
The 2015–16 El Niño event ranks as one of the most severe on record in terms of the magnitude and extent of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies generated in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Corresponding global impacts on the climate were expected to rival, or even surpass, those of the 1997–98 severe El Niño event, which had SST anomalies that were...
Article
Full-text available
Transpiration in humid tropical forests modulates the global water cycle and is a key driver of climate regulation. Yet, our understanding of how tropical trees regulate sap flux in response to climate variability remain elusive. With a progressively warming climate, atmospheric evaporative demand (i.e., vapor pressure deficit, VPD) will be increas...
Article
Full-text available
Vegetation plays an important role in regulating global carbon cycles and is a key component of the Earth system models (ESMs) that aim to project Earth's future climate. In the last decade, the vegetation component within ESMs has witnessed great progress from simple “big-leaf” approaches to demographically structured approaches, which have a bett...
Article
Full-text available
Stomata regulate CO2 uptake for photosynthesis and water loss through transpiration. The approaches used to represent stomatal conductance (gs) in models vary. In particular, current understanding of drivers of the variation in a key parameter in those models, the slope parameter (i.e. a measure of intrinsic plant water‐use‐efficiency), is still li...
Article
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The metabolic underpinnings of plant survival under severe drought-induced senescence conditions are poorly understood. In this study, we assessed the morphological, physiological and metabolic responses to sustained water deficit in Brachypodium distachyon, a model organism for research on temperate grasses. Relative to control plants, fresh bioma...
Article
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Current climate change scenarios indicate warmer temperatures and the potential for more extreme droughts in the tropics, such that a mechanistic understanding of the water cycle from individual trees to landscapes is needed to adequately predict future changes in forest structure and function. In this study, we contrasted physiological responses o...
Article
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1.Rising sea levels under climate change may have significant impacts on coastal vegetation dynamics, yet the response of coastal forest growth, gas‐exchange, and survival to seawater intrusion remains poorly documented. 2.We conducted a dendroecology study across six sites in western Washington, USA, to examine how tree growth, gas exchange (index...
Article
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Plain Language Summary During the past 50 years, the northeastern Qinghai‐Tibetan Plateau region experienced alpine glacial retreat, increased desertification, and a reduction of river and lake levels. Understanding the region's background hydroclimate variation is critically important to assess current and future water‐management policies in this...
Article
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Predictions of warmer droughts causing increasing forest mortality are becoming abundant, yet fewer studies have investigated the mechanisms of forest persistence. To examine the resistance of forests to warmer droughts, we used a five-year precipitation reduction (~45% removal), heat (+4°C above ambient) and combined drought and heat experiment in...
Article
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Woody plants vary in their adaptations to drought and shade. For a better prediction of vegetation responses to drought and shade within dynamic global vegetation models, it is critical to group species into functional types with similar adaptations. One of the key challenges is that the adaptations are generally determined by a large number of pla...
Article
Full-text available
Vegetation plays a key role in regulating global carbon cycles and is a key component of the Earth System Models (ESMs) aimed to project Earth's future climates. In the last decade, the vegetation component within ESMs has witnessed great progresses from simple 'big-leaf' approaches to demographically-structured approaches, which has a better repre...
Article
Full-text available
Non‐structural carbohydrates (NSCs) are essential for maintenance of plant metabolism, and may be sensitive to both short‐ and long‐term climatic variation. NSC variation in moist tropical forests has rarely been studied, so regulation of NSCs in these systems is poorly understood. We measured foliar and branch NSC content in 23 tree species at thr...
Article
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How plants respond physiologically to leaf warming and low water availability may determine how they will perform under future climate change. In 2015–2016, an unprecedented drought occurred across Amazonia with record-breaking high temperatures and low soil moisture, offering a unique opportunity to evaluate the performances of Amazonian trees to...
Article
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Non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs), the stored products of photosynthesis, building blocks for growth and fuel for respiration, are central to plant metabolism, but their measurement is challenging. Differences in methods and procedures among laboratories can cause results to vary widely, limiting our ability to integrate and generalize patterns i...
Article
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The leaf area to sapwood area ratios of trees (A l :A S) can shift to maintain homeostatic gas exchange per unit leaf area in response to climate variability. We tested the hypothesis that trees alter their A l :A S ratios in response to long-term warming and reduced precipitation in order to maintain leaf-specific gas exchange rates under more str...
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Understanding how climate alters plant-soil water dynamics, and its impact on physiological functions, is critical to improved predictions of vegetation responses to climate change. Here we analyzed how belowground interactions for water shift under warming and drought, and associated impacts on plant functions. In a semi-arid woodland, adult trees...
Article
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Survival rates of large trees determine forest biomass dynamics. Survival rates of small trees have been linked to mechanisms that maintain biodiversity across tropical forests. How species survival rates change with size offers insight into the links between biodiversity and ecosystem function across tropical forests. We tested patterns of size-de...