Tasmania experienced a protracted warm spell in November 2017. Temperatures were lower than those usually characterising heatwaves. Nonetheless the warm spell represented an extreme anomaly based on the historical local climate. Eddy covariance measurements of fluxes in a Eucalyptus obliqua tall forest at Warra, southern Tasmania during the warm spell were compared with measurements in the same period of the previous year when temperatures were closer to average. Compared with previous year, the warm spell resulted in 31% lower gross primary productivity (GPP), 58% higher ecosystem respiration (ER) and the forest switching from a carbon sink to a source. Significantly higher net radiation received during the warm spell was dissipated by increased latent heat flux, while canopy conductance was comparable with the previous year. Stomatal regulation to limit water loss was therefore unlikely as the reason for the lower GPP during the warm spell. Temperatures during the warm spell were supra-optimal for GPP for 75% of the daylight hours. The decline in GPP at Warra during the warm spell was therefore most likely due to temperatures exceeding the optimum for GPP. All else being equal, these forests will be weaker carbon sinks if, as predicted, warming events become more common.
Climate change is projected to increase the imbalance between the supply (precipitation) and atmospheric demand for water (i.e., increased potential evapotranspiration), stressing plants in water-limited environments. Plants may be able to offset increasing aridity because rising CO2 increases water use efficiency. CO2 fertilization has also been cited as one of the drivers of the widespread “greening” phenomenon. However, attributing the size of this CO2 fertilization effect is complicated, due in part to a lack of long-term vegetation monitoring and interannual- to decadal-scale climate variability. In this study we asked the question of how much CO2 has contributed towards greening. We focused our analysis on a broad aridity gradient spanning eastern Australia's woody ecosystems. Next we analyzed 38 years of satellite remote sensing estimates of vegetation greenness (normalized difference vegetation index, NDVI) to examine the role of CO2 in ameliorating climate change impacts. Multiple statistical techniques were applied to separate the CO2-attributable effects on greening from the changes in water supply and atmospheric aridity. Widespread vegetation greening occurred despite a warming climate, increases in vapor pressure deficit, and repeated record-breaking droughts and heat waves. Between 1982–2019 we found that NDVI increased (median 11.3 %) across 90.5 % of the woody regions. After masking disturbance effects (e.g., fire), we statistically estimated an 11.7 % increase in NDVI attributable to CO2, broadly consistent with a hypothesized theoretical expectation of an 8.6 % increase in water use efficiency due to rising CO2. In contrast to reports of a weakening CO2 fertilization effect, we found no consistent temporal change in the CO2 effect. We conclude rising CO2 has mitigated the effects of increasing aridity, repeated record-breaking droughts, and record-breaking heat waves in eastern Australia. However, we were unable to determine whether trees or grasses were the primary beneficiary of the CO2-induced change in water use efficiency, which has implications for projecting future ecosystem resilience. A more complete understanding of how CO2-induced changes in water use efficiency affect trees and non-tree vegetation is needed.
Climate change is projected to increase the imbalance between the supply (precipitation) and atmospheric demand for water (i.e. increased potential evapotranspiration), stressing plants in water-limited environments. Plants may be able to offset increasing aridity because rising CO2 increases water-use-efficiency. CO2 fertilization has also been cited as one of the drivers of the widespread ‘greening’ phenomenon. However, attributing the size of this CO2 fertilization effect is complicated, due in part to a lack of long-term vegetation monitoring and interannual to decadal-scale climate variability. In this study we asked the question, how much has CO2 contributed towards greening? We focused our analysis on a broad aridity gradient spanning eastern Australia’s woody ecosystems. Next we analysed 38-years of satellite remote sensing estimates of vegetation greenness (normalized difference vegetation index, NDVI) to examine the role of CO2 in ameliorating climate change impacts. Multiple statistical techniques were applied to separate the CO2-attributable effects on greening from the changes in water supply and atmospheric aridity. Widespread vegetation greening occurred despite a warming climate, increases in vapor pressure deficit, and repeated record-breaking droughts and heatwaves. Between 1982–2019 we found that NDVI increased (median 11.3 %) across 90.5 % of the woody regions. After masking disturbance effects (e.g. fire), we statistically estimated an 11.7 % increase in NDVI attributable to CO2, broadly consistent with a hypothesized theoretical expectation of an 8.6 % increase in water-use-efficiency due to rising CO2. In contrast to reports of a weakening CO2 fertilization effect, we found no consistent temporal change in the CO2 effect. We conclude rising CO2 has mitigated the effects of increasing aridity, repeated record-breaking droughts, and record-breaking heat waves in eastern Australia. However, we were unable to determine whether trees or grasses were the primary beneficiary of the CO2 induced change in water-use-efficiency, which has implications for projecting future ecosystem resilience. A more complete understanding of how CO2 induced changes in water-use-efficiency affect trees and non-tree vegetation is needed.
Disastrous bushfires during the last months of 2019 and January 2020 affected Australia, raising the question to what extent the risk of these fires was exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change. To answer the question for southeastern Australia, where fires were particularly severe, affecting people and ecosystems, we use a physically based index of fire weather, the Fire Weather Index; long-term observations of heat and drought; and 11 large ensembles of state-of-the-art climate models. We find large trends in the Fire Weather Index in the fifth-generation European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Atmospheric Reanalysis (ERA5) since 1979 and a smaller but significant increase by at least 30 % in the models. Therefore, we find that climate change has induced a higher weather-induced risk of such an extreme fire season. This trend is mainly driven by the increase of temperature extremes. In agreement with previous analyses we find that heat extremes have become more likely by at least a factor of 2 due to the long-term warming trend. However, current climate models overestimate variability and tend to underestimate the long-term trend in these extremes, so the true change in the likelihood of extreme heat could be larger, suggesting that the attribution of the increased fire weather risk is a conservative estimate. We do not find an attributable trend in either extreme annual drought or the driest month of the fire season, September–February. The observations, however, show a weak drying trend in the annual mean. For the 2019/20 season more than half of the July–December drought was driven by record excursions of the Indian Ocean Dipole and Southern Annular Mode, factors which are included in the analysis here. The study reveals the complexity of the 2019/20 bushfire event, with some but not all drivers showing an imprint of anthropogenic climate change. Finally, the study concludes with a qualitative review of various vulnerability and exposure factors that each play a role, along with the hazard in increasing or decreasing the overall impact of the bushfires.
The temperature dependence of global photosynthesis and respiration determine land carbon sink strength. While the land sink currently mitigates ~30% of anthropogenic carbon emissions, it is unclear whether this ecosystem service will persist and, more specifically, what hard temperature limits, if any, regulate carbon uptake. Here, we use the largest continuous carbon flux monitoring network to construct the first observationally derived temperature response curves for global land carbon uptake. We show that the mean temperature of the warmest quarter (3-month period) passed the thermal maximum for photosynthesis during the past decade. At higher temperatures, respiration rates continue to rise in contrast to sharply declining rates of photosynthesis. Under business-as-usual emissions, this divergence elicits a near halving of the land sink strength by as early as 2040.
The 2019/20 Black Summer bushfire disaster in southeast Australia was unprecedented: the extensive area of forest burnt, the radiative power of the fires, and the extraordinary number of fires that developed into extreme pyroconvective events were all unmatched in the historical record. Australia’s hottest and driest year on record, 2019, was characterised by exceptionally dry fuel loads that primed the landscape to burn when exposed to dangerous fire weather and ignition. The combination of climate variability and long-term climate trends generated the climate extremes experienced in 2019, and the compounding effects of two or more modes of climate variability in their fire-promoting phases (as occurred in 2019) has historically increased the chances of large forest fires occurring in southeast Australia. Palaeoclimate evidence also demonstrates that fire-promoting phases of tropical Pacific and Indian ocean variability are now unusually frequent compared with natural variability in pre-industrial times. Indicators of forest fire danger in southeast Australia have already emerged outside of the range of historical experience, suggesting that projections made more than a decade ago that increases in climate-driven fire risk would be detectable by 2020, have indeed eventuated. The multiple climate change contributors to fire risk in southeast Australia, as well as the observed non-linear escalation of fire extent and intensity, raise the likelihood that fire events may continue to rapidly intensify in the future. Improving local and national adaptation measures while also pursuing ambitious global climate change mitigation efforts would provide the best strategy for limiting further increases in fire risk in southeast Australia.
Wildfires worldwide are becoming more frequent but are they also becoming more severe? Here we used remotely sensed burn-severity data from wildfires in Victoria, southeastern Australia to address that question. We selected 162 wildfires of more than 1000 ha that occurred over the past 30 years across a wide range of forest types. Spectral indices derived from Landsat pre-and post-fire imagery were used to map fire severity. Our results show a significant increase in the absolute and proportional area burnt by high-severity fire over the last three decades. This study demonstrates that wildfires in the temperate forests of southern Australia are becoming more severe. Such change in fire regimes may have critical consequences for the sustainability and resilience of the studied forests.
B. N. Tran, M. A. Tanase, L. T. Bennett and C. Aponte, "Are High Severity Fires Increasing in Southern Australia?," IGARSS 2020 - 2020 IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, Waikoloa, HI, USA, 2020, pp. 4630-4633, doi: 10.1109/IGARSS39084.2020.9324121.
Trees are the living foundations on which most terrestrial biodiversity is built. Central to the success of trees are their woody bodies, which connect their elevated photosynthetic canopies with the essential belowground activities of water and nutrient acquisition. The slow construction of these carbon-dense, woody skeletons leads to a slow generation time, leaving trees and forests highly susceptible to rapid changes in climate. Other long-lived, sessile organisms such as corals appear to be poorly equipped to survive rapid changes, which raises questions about the vulnerability of contemporary forests to future climate change. The emerging view that, similar to corals, tree species have rather inflexible damage thresholds, particularly in terms of water stress, is especially concerning. This Review examines recent progress in our understanding of how the future looks for forests growing in a hotter and drier atmosphere.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide enrichment (eCO2) can enhance plant carbon uptake and growth1–5, thereby providing an important negative feedback to climate change by slowing the rate of increase of the atmospheric CO2 concentration6. Although evidence gathered from young aggrading forests has generally indicated a strong CO2 fertilization effect on biomass growth3–5, it is unclear whether mature forests respond to eCO2 in a similar way. In mature trees and forest stands7–10, photosynthetic uptake has been found to increase under eCO2 without any apparent accompanying growth response, leaving the fate of additional carbon fixed under eCO2 unclear4,5,7–11. Here using data from the first ecosystem-scale Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiment in a mature forest, we constructed a comprehensive ecosystem carbon budget to track the fate of carbon as the forest responded to four years of eCO2 exposure. We show that, although the eCO2 treatment of +150 parts per million (+38 per cent) above ambient levels induced a 12 per cent (+247 grams of carbon per square metre per year) increase in carbon uptake through gross primary production, this additional carbon uptake did not lead to increased carbon sequestration at the ecosystem level. Instead, the majority of the extra carbon was emitted back into the atmosphere via several respiratory fluxes, with increased soil respiration alone accounting for half of the total uptake surplus. Our results call into question the predominant thinking that the capacity of forests to act as carbon sinks will be generally enhanced under eCO2, and challenge the efficacy of climate mitigation strategies that rely on ubiquitous CO2 fertilization as a driver of increased carbon sinks in global forests. Carbon dioxide enrichment of a mature forest resulted in the emission of the excess carbon back into the atmosphere via enhanced ecosystem respiration, suggesting that mature forests may be limited in their capacity to mitigate climate change.
Carbon and water fluxes are often assumed to be coupled as a result of stomatal regulation during dry conditions. However, recent observations evidenced increased transpiration rates during isolated heatwaves across a range of eucalypt species under experimental and natural conditions, with inconsistent effects on photosynthesis (ranging from increases to stark declines). To improve the empirical basis for understanding carbon and water fluxes in forests under hotter and drier climates, we measured the water use of dominant trees and ecosystem‐scale carbon and water exchange in a temperate eucalypt forest over three summer seasons. The forest maintained photosynthesis within 16% of baseline rates during hot and dry conditions, despite ~70% reductions in canopy conductance during a 5‐day heatwave. While carbon and water fluxes both decreased by 16% on exceptionally dry days, gross primary productivity only decreased by 5% during the hottest days and increased by 2% during the heatwave. However, evapotranspiration increased by 43% (hottest days) and 74% (heatwave), leading to ~40% variation in traditional water use efficiency (water use efficiency = gross primary productivity/evapotranspiration) across conditions and approximately two‐fold differences between traditional and underlying or intrinsic water use efficiency on the same days. Furthermore, the forest became a net source of carbon following a 137% increase in ecosystem respiration during the heatwave, highlighting that the potential for temperate eucalypt forests to act as net carbon sinks under hotter and drier climates will depend not only on the responses of photosynthesis to higher temperatures and changes in water availability, but also on the concomitant responses of ecosystem respiration.
The iso/anisohydric continuum describes how plants regulate leaf water potential and is commonly used to classify species drought response strategies. However, drought response strategies comprise more than just this continuum, incorporating a suite of stomatal and hydraulic traits.
Using a common garden experiment, we compared and contrasted four metrics commonly used to describe water use strategy during drought in 10 eucalyptus species comprising four major ecosystems in eastern Australia. We examined the degree to which these metrics were aligned with key stomatal and hydraulic traits related to plant water use and drought tolerance.
Species rankings of water use strategy were inconsistent across four metrics. A newer metric (Hydroscape) was strongly linked to various plant traits, including the leaf turgor loss (TLP), water potential at stomatal closure ( P gs90 ), leaf and stem hydraulic vulnerability to embolism ( P L50 and P x50 ), safety margin of hydraulic segmentation (HSM HS ), maximum stomatal conductance ( g smax ) and Huber value (HV). In addition, Hydroscape was correlated with climatic variables representing the water availability at the seed source site.
Along the continuum of water regulation strategy, species with narrow Hydroscapes tended to occupy mesic regions and exhibit high TLP, P L50 and P x50 values and narrow HSM HS . High g smax recorded in species with broad hydroscapes was also associated with high HV.
Despite a fourfold difference in Hydroscape area, all species closed their stomata prior to the onset of hydraulic dysfunction, suggesting a common stomatal response across species that minimizes embolism risk during drought. Hydroscape area is useful in bridging stomatal regulation, hydraulic architecture and species drought tolerance, thus providing insight into species water use strategies.
A plain language summary is available for this article.
Recent experimental evidence suggests that during heat extremes, wooded
ecosystems may decouple photosynthesis and transpiration, reducing
photosynthesis to near zero but increasing transpiration into the boundary
layer. This feedback may act to dampen, rather than amplify, heat extremes in
wooded ecosystems. We examined eddy covariance databases (OzFlux and
FLUXNET2015) to identify whether there was field-based evidence to support
these experimental findings. We focused on two types of heat extremes:
(i) the 3 days leading up to a temperature extreme, defined as including
a daily maximum temperature >37 ∘C (similar to the widely used
TXx metric), and (ii) heatwaves, defined as 3 or more consecutive days
above 35 ∘C. When focusing on (i), we found some evidence of
reduced photosynthesis and sustained or increased latent heat fluxes at seven
Australian evergreen wooded flux sites. However, when considering the role of
vapour pressure deficit and focusing on (ii), we were unable to conclusively
disentangle the decoupling between photosynthesis and latent heat flux from
the effect of increasing the vapour pressure deficit. Outside of Australia, the
Tier-1 FLUXNET2015 database provided limited scope to tackle this issue as it
does not sample sufficient high temperature events with which to probe the
physiological response of trees to extreme heat. Thus, further work is
required to determine whether this photosynthetic decoupling occurs widely,
ideally by matching experimental species with those found at eddy covariance
tower sites. Such measurements would allow this decoupling mechanism to be
probed experimentally and at the ecosystem scale. Transpiration during
heatwaves remains a key issue to resolve, as no land surface model includes a
decoupling mechanism, and any potential dampening of the land–atmosphere
amplification is thus not included in climate model projections.
Globally, combinations of drought and warming are driving widespread tree mortality and crown dieback. Yet thresholds triggering either tree mortality or crown dieback remain uncertain, particularly with respect to two issues: (i) the degree to which heat waves, as an acute stress, can trigger mortality, and (ii) the degree to which chronic historical drought can have legacy effects on these processes. Using forest study sites in southwestern Australia that experienced dieback associated with a short-term drought with a heatwave (heatwave-compounded drought) in 2011 and span a gradient in long-term precipitation (LTP) change, we examined the potential for chronic historical drought to amplify tree mortality or crown dieback during a heatwave-compounded drought event for the dominant overstory species Eucalyptus marginata and Corymbia calophylla. We show pronounced legacy effects associated with chronically reduced LTP (1951–1980 versus 1981–2010) at the tree level in both study species. When comparing areas experiencing 7.0% and 11.5% decline in LTP, the probability of tree mortality increased from low (<0.10) to high (>0.55) in both species, and probability of crown dieback increased from high (0.74) to nearly complete (0.96) in E. marginata. Results from beta regression analysis at the stand-level confirmed tree-level results, illustrating a significant inverse relationship between LTP reduction and either tree mortality (F = 10.39, P = 0.0073) or dieback (F = 54.72, P < 0.0001). Our findings quantify chronic climate legacy effects during a well-documented tree mortality and crown dieback event that is specifically associated with an heatwave-compounded drought. Our results highlight how insights into both acute heatwave-compounded drought effects and chronic drought legacies need to be integrated into assessments of how drought and warming together trigger broad-scale tree mortality and crown dieback events.
Intraspecific variation in biomass production responses to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (eCO 2) could influence tree spe-cies' ecological and evolutionary responses to climate change. However, the physiological mechanisms underlying genotypic variation in responsiveness to eCO 2 remain poorly understood. In this study, we grew 17 Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehnh. subsp. camaldulensis genotypes (representing provenances from four different climates) under ambient atmospheric CO 2 and eCO 2. We tested whether genotype leaf-scale photosynthetic and whole-tree carbon (C) allocation responses to eCO 2 were predictive of genotype biomass production responses to eCO 2. Averaged across genotypes, growth at eCO 2 increased in situ leaf net photo-synthesis (A net) (29%) and leaf starch concentrations (37%). Growth at eCO 2 reduced the maximum carboxylation capacity of Rubisco (−4%) and leaf nitrogen per unit area (N area , −6%), but N area calculated on a total non-structural carbohydrate-free basis was similar between treatments. Growth at eCO 2 also increased biomass production and altered C allocation by reducing leaf area ratio (−11%) and stem mass fraction (SMF, −9%), and increasing leaf mass area (18%) and leaf mass fraction (5%). Overall, we found few significant CO 2 × provenance or CO 2 × genotype (within provenance) interactions. However, genotypes that showed the largest increases in total dry mass at eCO 2 had larger increases in root mass fraction (with larger decreases in SMF) and photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency (PNUE) with CO 2 enrichment. These results indicate that genetic differences in PNUE and carbon sink utilization (in roots) are both important predictors of tree productivity responsiveness to eCO 2 .
In many biomes, plants are subject to heat-waves, potentially causing irreversible damage to the photosynthetic apparatus. Field surveys have documented global, temperature-dependent patterns in photosynthetic heat tolerance (PHT); however, it remains unclear if these patterns reflect acclimation in PHT or inherent differences among species adapted to contrasting habitats. To address these unknowns, we quantified seasonal variations in Tcrit (high temperature where minimal chlorophyll-a fluorescence rises rapidly, reflecting disruption to photosystem II) in 62 species native to six sites from five thermally-contrasting biomes across Australia. Tcrit and leaf fatty-acid (FA) composition (important for membrane-stability) were quantified in three temperature-controlled glasshouses in 20 of those species. Tcrit was greatest at hot field sites, and acclimated seasonally (summer>winter, increasing on average 0.34 °C per °C increase in growth temperature). The glasshouse study showed that Tcrit was inherently higher in species from warmer habitats (increasing 0.16 °C per °C increase in origin annual mean maximum temperature) and acclimated to increasing growth temperature (0.24 °C °C⁻¹). Variations in Tcrit were positively correlated with the relative abundance of saturated FAs, with FAs accounting for 40% of Tcrit variation. These results highlight the importance of both plastic adjustments and inherent differences determining contemporary continent-wide patterns in PHT.
Drought can cause major damage to plant communities, but species damage thresholds and postdrought recovery of forest productivity are not yet predictable. We used an El Niño drought event as a natural experiment to test whether postdrought recovery of gas exchange could be predicted by properties of the water transport system, or if metabolism, primarily high abscisic acid concentration, might delay recovery.
We monitored detailed physiological responses, including shoot sapflow, leaf gas exchange, leaf water potential and foliar abscisic acid ( ABA ), during drought and through the subsequent rehydration period for a sample of eight canopy and understory species.
Severe drought caused major declines in leaf water potential, elevated foliar ABA concentrations and reduced stomatal conductance and assimilation rates in our eight sample species. Leaf water potential surpassed levels associated with incipient loss of leaf hydraulic conductance in four species. Following heavy rainfall gas exchange in all species, except those trees predicted to have suffered hydraulic impairment, recovered to prestressed rates within 1 d.
Recovery of plant gas exchange was rapid and could be predicted by the hydraulic safety margin, providing strong support for leaf vulnerability to water deficit as an index of damage under natural drought conditions.
Climate variability, climate change and extreme events pose risks that need to be quantified and managed. Dry and hot conditions have notable impacts, and have a strong link to drought risk. Many extreme event analyses focus on one variable at a time. However, compound extremes, involving two or more climate variables, can have a disproportionately large impact. Thus integrated multivariate analyses are necessary to comprehensively assess climate impacts. Here we document 150 years of information about events with low monthly rainfall and high temperature for southeast Australia. The number of hot/dry months per year exhibits decadal variability and increasing trends. Long-term trends are more influenced by temperature than rainfall, consistent with a warming climate. The number of hot and dry consecutive events, defined as three to five consecutive months of compound events, is increasing. Our findings reinforce the need to consider definitions that include multivariate variables such as rainfall and temperature and/or other hydroclimate variables, where possible, when quantifying drought risk. Discussion on how the results could contribute to improvement in climate projection science in Australia or elsewhere is provided.
Rising atmospheric CO2 stimulates photosynthesis and productivity of forests, offsetting CO2 emissions. Elevated CO2 experiments in temperate planted forests yielded ∼23% increases in productivity over the initial years. Whether similar CO2 stimulation occurs in mature evergreen broadleaved forests on low-phosphorus (P) soils is unknown, largely due to lack of experimental evidence. This knowledge gap creates major uncertainties in future climate projections as a large part of the tropics is P-limited. Here, we increased atmospheric CO2 concentration in a mature broadleaved evergreen eucalypt forest for three years, in the first large-scale experiment on a P-limited site. We show that tree growth and other aboveground productivity components did not significantly increase in response to elevated CO2 in three years, despite a sustained 19% increase in leaf photosynthesis. Moreover, tree growth in ambient CO2 was strongly P-limited and increased by ∼35% with added phosphorus. The findings suggest that P availability may potentially constrain CO2 -enhanced productivity in P-limited forests; hence, future atmospheric CO2 trajectories may be higher than predicted by some models. As a result, coupled climate-carbon models should incorporate both nitrogen and phosphorus limitations to vegetation productivity in estimating future carbon sinks.
As a result of climate change warmer temperatures are projected through the 21st century and are already increasing above modelled predictions. Apart from increases in the mean, warm/hot temperature extremes are expected to become more prevalent in the future, along with an increase in the frequency of droughts. It is crucial to better understand the response of terrestrial ecosystems to such temperature extremes for predicting land-surface feedbacks in a changing climate. While land-surface feedbacks in drought conditions and during heat waves have been reported from Europe and the US, direct observations of the impact of such extremes on the carbon and water cycles in Australia have been lacking. During the 2012/2013 summer, Australia experienced a record-breaking heat wave with an exceptional spatial extent that lasted for several weeks. In this study we synthesised eddy-covariance measurements from seven woodlands and one forest site across three biogeographic regions in southern Australia. These observations were combined with model results from BIOS2 (Haverd et al., 2013a, b) to investigate the effect of the summer heat wave on the carbon and water exchange of terrestrial ecosystems which are known for their resilience toward hot and dry conditions. We found that water-limited woodland and energy-limited forest ecosystems responded differently to the heat wave. During the most intense part of the heat wave, the woodlands experienced decreased latent heat flux (23% of background value), increased Bowen ratio (154 %) and reduced carbon uptake (60 %). At the same time the forest ecosystem showed increased latent heat flux (151 %), reduced Bowen ratio (19 %) and increased carbon uptake (112 %). Higher temperatures caused increased ecosystem respiration at all sites (up to 139 %). During daytime all ecosystems remained carbon sinks, but carbon uptake was reduced in magnitude. The number of hours during which the ecosystem acted as a carbon sink was also reduced, which switched the woodlands
into a carbon source on a daily average. Precipitation occurred after the first, most intense part of the heat
wave, and the subsequent cooler temperatures in the temperate woodlands led to recovery of the carbon sink, decreased the Bowen ratio (65 %) and hence increased evaporative cooling. Gross primary productivity in the woodlands recovered quickly with precipitation and cooler temperatures but respiration remained high. While the forest proved relatively resilient to this short-term heat extreme the response of the woodlands is the first direct evidence that the carbon sinks of large areas of Australia may not be sustainable in a future climate with an increased number, intensity and duration of heat waves.
As a result of climate change warmer temperatures are projected through the 21st century and are already increasing above modelled predictions. Apart from increases in the mean, warm/hot temperature extremes are expected to become more prevalent in the future, along with an increase in the frequency of droughts. It is crucial to better understand the response of terrestrial ecosystems to such temperature extremes for predicting land-surface feedbacks in a changing climate. During the 2012/2013 summer, Australia experienced a record-breaking heat wave with an exceptional spatial extent that lasted for several weeks. We synthesized eddy-covariance measurements from seven woodland and forest sites across climate zones in southern Australia, which we combined with model simulations from the CABLE land surface model to investigate the effect of this summer heat wave on the carbon and water exchange of terrestrial ecosystems. We found that the water-limited woodlands and the energy-limited forest ecosystem responded differently to the heat wave. During the most intense part of the heat wave, the woodlands experienced decreased latent heat flux, an increased Bowen ratio and a reduced carbon uptake while the forest ecosystem had increased latent heat flux, reduced Bowen ratio and increased carbon uptake. Ecosystem respiration was increased at all sites resulting in reduced net ecosystem productivity in the woodlands and constant net ecosystem productivity in the forest. Importantly all ecosystems remained carbon sinks during the event. Precipitation after the most intense first part of the heat wave and slightly cooler temperatures led to a decrease of the Bowen ratio and hence increased evaporative cooling. Carbon uptake in the woodlands also recovered quickly but respiration remained high. While woodlands and forest proved relatively resistant to this short-term heat extreme these carbon sinks may not sustainable in a future with an increased number, intensity and duration of heat waves.
Extreme climatic events, including droughts and heatwaves, can trigger outbreaks of woodboring beetles by compromising host defenses and creating habitat conducive for beetle development. As the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts are likely to increase in the future, beetle outbreaks are expected to become more common. The combination of drought and beetle outbreaks has the potential to alter ecosystem structure, composition, and function. Our aim was to investigate a potential outbreak of the native Eucalyptus longhorned borer, Phoracantha semipunctata (P. semipunctata), following one of the most severe droughts on record in the Northern Jarrah Forest of Southwestern Australia. Beetle damage and tissue moisture were examined in trees ranging from healthy to recently killed. Additionally, beetle population levels were examined in adjacent forest areas exhibiting severe and minimal canopy dieback. Severely drought-affected forest was associated with an unprecedented outbreak of P. semipunctata, with densities 80 times higher than those observed in surrounding healthier forest. Trees recently killed by drought had significantly lower tissue moisture and higher feeding damage and infestation levels than those trees considered healthy or in the process of dying. These results confirm the outbreak potential of P. semipunctata in its native Mediterranean-climate Eucalyptus forest under severe water stress, and indicate that continued drying will increase the likelihood of outbreaks.
Arguments based on the biochemistry of photosynthesis predict a positive interaction between elevated atmospheric [CO2] and temperature on photosynthesis as well as growth. In contrast, few long-term studies on trees find greater stimulation
of photosynthesis in response to elevated [CO2] at warmer compared with cooler temperatures. To test for CO2 × temperature interactions on leaf photosynthesis and whole-plant growth, we planted Eucalyptus globulus Labill. in climate-controlled chambers in the field at the Hawkesbury Forest Experiment research site, and investigated how
photosynthetic enhancement changed across a range of seasonal temperatures. Trees were grown in a complete two-way factorial
design with two CO2 concentrations (ambient and ambient + 240 ppm) and two temperatures (ambient and ambient + 3 °C) for 15 months until they
reached ∼10 m height, after which they were harvested for biomass. There was significant enhancement of photosynthesis and
growth with elevated [CO2], with the photosynthetic stimulation varying with season, but there was no significant effect of warming. Photosynthetic
enhancement was higher in summer (+46% at 28 °C) than in winter (+14% at 20 °C). Photosynthetic enhancement as a function
of leaf temperature was consistent with theoretical expectations, but was strongly mediated by the intercellular [CO2]/ambient [CO2] (Ci/Ca) ratio across seasons. Total tree biomass after 15 months was 66% larger in elevated CO2 (P = 0.017) with no significant warming effect detected. The fraction of biomass in coarse roots was reduced in warmed trees
compared with ambient temperature controls, but there was no evidence of changed biomass allocation patterns in elevated CO2. We conclude that there are strong and consistent elevated CO2 effects on photosynthesis and biomass of E. globulus. It is crucial to consider stomatal conductance under a range of conditions to appraise the interactive effect of [CO2] and temperature on photosynthetic enhancement and subsequent implications for tree growth and forest productivity in future
The aboveground carbon (AGC) storage of open Eucalyptus forests is unknown yet they are estimated to account for almost 25% of all Australian forests and about 60% of forests in Victoria. In this study we provide the best possible estimates of total AGC including tree biomass derived from destructive biomass sampling across 23 study plots established in open Eucalyptus forests in Victoria. The field estimates of AGC were then used for calibration of Australia's National Carbon Accounting Model, FullCAM. The study aimed to develop a transparent and defendable method to estimate AGC for one of the most common Australian forests. Our calibrations showed that the 8.3 M ha of open Eucalyptus forests of SE Australia sequester at least 139 Mt C more than default FullCAM predictions. Because most of these forests are not subject to human-induced emission such as harvesting, only emissions and stock changes from a small area of these forests is reported in national inventories and international greenhouse emissions agreements. Concern for climate change and emission reduction will inevitably OPEN ACCESS Forests 2015, 6 3396 require land managers to come up with defendable methods of estimating forest carbon stocks and changes in all forest types; here we show how FullCAM can be further developed for this purpose.
The physiological principles predicting growth (3-PG) model is generally used to estimate gross primary productivity (GPP) in forest plantations. All existing parameter values in the 3-PG model for GPP estimation have been set as the standard values for eucalyptus and pine plantations. We propose that the 3-PG model can be applied to deciduous broadleaf forests dominated by Betula platyphylla via appropriate parameterization of their structure and functions. The allometric relationships between stem biomass and stem diameter, and between foliage biomass and stem biomass, were determined for the biomass partitioning ratio. Additionally, a temperature modifier was considered appropriate because it affected canopy quantum efficiency. After parameterization, the model showed a good correlation between the estimated results and the data from experimental plots in central and northern Japan. At both sites, GPP peaked around August and was 0 during the winter, when the canopy is bare of leaves. Furthermore, a sensitivity analysis was conducted to determine the most influential parameter relative to the output. GPP was sensitive to changes in canopy quantum efficiency and optimum temperature. Among the meteorological data used, solar radiation and temperature had great impacts on GPP, therefore, these parameters should be carefully considered to produce accurate results.
Increases in drought and temperature stress in forest and woodland ecosystems are thought to be responsible for the rise in episodic mortality events observed globally. However, key climatic drivers common to mortality events and the impacts of future extreme droughts on tree survival have not been evaluated. Here, we characterize climatic drivers associated with documented tree die-off events across Australia using standardized climatic indices to represent the key dimensions of drought stress for a range of vegetation types. We identify a common probabilistic threshold associated with an increased risk of die-off across all the sites that we examined. We show that observed die-off events occur when water deficits and maximum temperatures are high and exist outside 98% of the observed range in drought intensity; this threshold was evident at all sites regardless of vegetation type and climate. The observed die-off events also coincided with at least one heat wave (three consecutive days above the 90th percentile for maximum temperature), emphasizing a pivotal role of heat stress in amplifying tree die-off and mortality processes. The joint drought intensity and maximum temperature distributions were modeled for each site to describe the co-occurrence of both hot and dry conditions and evaluate future shifts in climatic thresholds associated with the die-off events. Under a relatively dry and moderate warming scenario, the frequency of droughts capable of inducing significant tree die-off across Australia could increase from 1 in 24 years to 1 in 15 years by 2050, accompanied by a doubling in the occurrence of associated heat waves. By defining commonalities in drought conditions capable of inducing tree die-off, we show a strong interactive effect of water and high temperature stress and provide a consistent approach for assessing changes in the exposure of ecosystems to extreme drought events.
AimsUnderstanding how tree growth is influenced by climate is vital for predicting how forests will respond to climate change, yet there have been few studies of tree growth spanning macroclimatic gradients. The aim of this study is to correlate growth of a single lineage of broadleaf evergreen trees with continental-scale variability in climate.LocationAustralia's temperate mesic eucalypt forests, spanning latitudes from 23 to 43° S and longitudes from 115 to 153° E.Methods
We compiled and analysed a dataset containing around half a million measurements of growth in eucalypt tree diameter, collected from 2409 permanent forestry plots. These plots spanned a range of 558–2105 mm mean annual precipitation and 6–22 °C mean annual temperature. Generalized additive models were used to study the relationship between growth in tree diameter and several temperature and water availability variables.ResultsTree growth increased with precipitation, but with a diminishing response above a mean annual precipitation of 1400 mm. There was a peaked response to temperature, with maximum growth occurring at a mean annual temperature of 11 °C and maximum temperature of the warmest month of 25–27 °C. Lower temperatures directly constrain growth. High temperatures primarily reduced growth by reducing water availability, but they also appeared to exert a direct negative effect. Our best model, which included maximum temperature of the warmest month and the ratio of precipitation to evaporation, explained 28% of the deviance.Main conclusionsThe productivity of Australia's temperate eucalypt forests could decline substantially as the climate warms, given that 87% of these forests currently experience a mean annual temperature above 11 °C, where the highest growth rates were observed. This will reduce carbon sequestration and slow recovery after catastrophic disturbances such as wildfire.
Information about the carbon cycle potentially constrains the water
cycle, and vice versa. This paper explores the utility of multiple
observation sets to constrain a land surface model of Australian
terrestrial carbon and water cycles, and the resulting mean carbon pools
and fluxes, as well as their temporal and spatial variability.
Observations include streamflow from 416 gauged catchments, measurements
of evapotranspiration (ET) and net ecosystem production (NEP) from 12
eddy-flux sites, litterfall data, and data on carbon pools. By
projecting residuals between observations and corresponding predictions
onto uncertainty in model predictions at the continental scale, we find
that eddy flux measurements provide a significantly tighter constraint
on continental net primary production (NPP) than the other data types.
Nonetheless, simultaneous constraint by multiple data types is important
for mitigating bias from any single type. Four significant
results emerging from the multiply-constrained model are that, for the
1990-2011 period: (i) on the Australian continent, a predominantly
semi-arid region, over half the water loss through ET (0.64 ±
0.05) occurs through soil evaporation and bypasses plants entirely; (ii)
mean Australian NPP is quantified at 2.2 ± 0.4 (1σ) Pg C
yr-1; (iii) annually cyclic ("grassy") vegetation and
persistent ("woody") vegetation account for 0.56 ± 0.14 and 0.43
± 0.14, respectively of NPP across Australia; (iv) the average
interannual variability of Australia's NEP (±0.18 Pg C
yr-1, 1σ) is larger than Australia's total
anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 (0.149 Pg C equivalent
yr-1), and is dominated by variability in Desert and Savanna
Reforestation is identified as one of the key nature-based solutions to deliver carbon dioxide removal, which will be required to achieve the net zero ambition of the Paris Agreement. However, the potential for sequestration through reforestation is uncertain because climate change is expected to affect the drivers of forest growth. This study used the process-based 3-PG model to investigate the effects of climate change on development of above-ground biomass (AGB), as an indicator of forest growth, in regenerating native forests in southeast Australia. We investigated how changing climate affects AGB, by combining historical data and future climate projections based on 25 global climate models (GCMs) for the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) under two Shared Socioeconomic Pathways. We found that the ensemble means of 25 GCMs indicated an increase in temperature with large variations in projected rainfall. When these changes were applied in 3-PG, we found an increase in the simulated AGB by as much as 25% under a moderate emission scenario. This estimate rose to 51% under a high emission scenario by the end of the 21st century across nine selected sites in southeast Australia. However, when CO2 response was excluded, we found a large decrease in AGB at the nine sites. Our modelling results showed that the modelled response to elevated atmospheric CO2 (the CO2 fertilization effect) was largely responsible for the simulated increase of AGB (%). We found that the estimates of future changes in the AGB were subject to uncertainties originating from climate projections, future emission scenarios, and the assumed response to CO2 fertilization. Such modelling simulation improves understanding of possible climate change impacts on forest growth and the inherent uncertainties in estimating mitigation potential through reforestation, with implications for climate policy in Australia.
Gross Primary Productivity (GPP) of wooded ecosystems (forests and savannas) is central to the global carbon cycle, comprising 67‐75% of total global terrestrial GPP. Climate change may alter this flux by increasing the frequency of temperatures beyond the thermal optimum of GPP (Topt). We examined the relationship between GPP and air temperature (Ta) in 17 wooded ecosystems dominated by a single plant functional type (broadleaf evergreen trees) occurring over a broad climatic gradient encompassing 5 ecoregions across Australia ranging from tropical in the north to Mediterranean and temperate in the south. We applied a novel boundary‐line analysis to eddy covariance flux observations to a) derive ecosystem GPP‐Ta relationships and Topt (including seasonal analyses for 5 tropical savannas); b) quantitatively and qualitatively assess GPP‐Ta relationships within and among ecoregions; c) examine the relationship between Topt and mean daytime air temperature (MDTa) across all ecosystems; and d) examine how down‐welling short‐wave radiation (Fsd) and vapour pressure deficit (VPD) influence the GPP‐Ta relationship. GPP‐Ta relationships were convex parabolas with narrow curves in tropical forests, tropical savannas (wet season), and temperate forests, and wider curves in temperate woodlands, Mediterranean woodlands, and tropical savannas (dry season). Ecosystem Topt ranged from 15 °C (temperate forest) to 32 °C (tropical savanna ‐ wet and dry seasons). The shape of GPP‐Ta curves was largely determined by daytime Ta range, MDTa, and maximum GPP with the upslope influenced by Fsd and the downslope influenced by VPD. Across all ecosystems, there was a strong positive linear relationship between Topt and MDTa (adjusted R2: 0.81; Slope: 1.08) with Topt exceeding MDTa by >1 °C at all but two sites. We conclude that ecosystem GPP has adjusted to local MDTa within Australian broadleaf evergreen forests and that GPP is buffered against small Ta increases in the majority of these ecosystems.
Globally, forests are facing an increasing risk of mass tree mortality events associated with extreme droughts and higher temperatures. Hydraulic dysfunction is considered a key mechanism of drought triggered dieback. By leveraging the climate breadth of the Australian landscape and a national network of research sites (Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network), we conducted a continental‐scale study of physiology and hydraulic traits of 33 native tree species from contrasting environments to disentangle the complexities of plant response to drought across communities.
We found strong relationships between key plant hydraulic traits and site aridity. Leaf turgor loss point and xylem embolism resistance were correlated with minimum water potential experienced by each species. Across the dataset, there was a strong coordination between hydraulic traits, including those linked to hydraulic safety, stomatal regulation, and the cost of caron investment into woody tissue.
These results illustrate that aridity has acted as a strong selective pressure, shaping hydraulic traits of tree species across the Australian landscape. Hydraulic safety margins were constrained across sites, with species from wetter sites tending to have smaller safety margin compared with species at driest sites, suggesting trees are operating close to their hydraulic thresholds and forest biomes across the spectrum may be susceptible to shifts in climate that result in the intensification of drought.
Eastern Australia was subject to its hottest and driest year on record in 2019. This extreme drought resulted in massive canopy die‐back in eucalypt forests. The role of hydraulic failure and tree size on canopy die‐back in three eucalypt tree species during this drought was examined.
We measured pre‐dawn and midday leaf water potential (Ψ leaf ), per cent loss of stem hydraulic conductivity and quantified hydraulic vulnerability to drought‐induced xylem embolism. Tree size and tree health was also surveyed.
Trees with most, or all, of their foliage dead exhibited high rates of native embolism (78–100%). This is in contrast to trees with partial canopy die‐back (30–70% canopy die‐back: 72–78% native embolism), or relatively healthy trees (little evidence of canopy die‐back: 25–31% native embolism). Midday Ψ leaf was significantly more negative in trees exhibiting partial canopy die‐back (−2.7 to −6.3 MPa), compared with relatively healthy trees (−2.1 to −4.5 MPa). In two of the species the majority of individuals showing complete canopy die‐back were in the small size classes.
Our results indicate that hydraulic failure is strongly associated with canopy die‐back during drought in eucalypt forests. Our study provides valuable field data to help constrain models predicting mortality risk.
Short‐term temperature response curves of leaf dark respiration ( R–T ) provide insights into a critical process that influences plant net carbon exchange. This includes how respiratory traits acclimate to sustained changes in the environment.
Our study analysed 860 high‐resolution R–T (10–70°C range) curves for: (a) 62 evergreen species measured in two contrasting seasons across several field sites/biomes; and (b) 21 species (subset of those sampled in the field) grown in glasshouses at 20°C : 15°C, 25°C : 20°C and 30°C : 25°C, day : night.
In the field, across all sites/seasons, variations in R 25 (measured at 25°C) and the leaf T where R reached its maximum ( T max ) were explained by growth T (mean air‐ T of 30‐d before measurement), solar irradiance and vapour pressure deficit, with growth T having the strongest influence. R 25 decreased and T max increased with rising growth T across all sites and seasons with the single exception of winter at the cool‐temperate rainforest site where irradiance was low. The glasshouse study confirmed that R 25 and T max thermally acclimated.
Collectively, the results suggest: (1) thermal acclimation of leaf R is common in most biomes; and (2) the high T threshold of respiration dynamically adjusts upward when plants are challenged with warmer and hotter climates.
Drought‐related tree mortality is now a widespread phenomenon predicted to increase in magnitude with climate change. However, the patterns of which species and trees are most vulnerable to drought, and the underlying mechanisms have remained elusive, in part due to the lack of relevant data and difficulty of predicting the location of catastrophic drought years in advance. We used long‐term demographic records and extensive databases of functional traits and distribution patterns to understand the responses of 20 to 53 species to an extreme drought in a seasonally dry tropical forest in Costa Rica, which occurred during the 2015 El Niño Southern Oscillation event. Overall, species‐specific mortality rates during the drought ranged from 0% to 34%, and varied little as a function of tree size. By contrast, hydraulic safety margins correlated well with probability of mortality among species, while morphological or leaf economics spectrum traits did not. This firmly suggests hydraulic traits as targets for future research.
Understanding which hydraulic traits are under genetic control and/or are phenotypically plastic is essential in understanding how tree species will respond to rapid shifts in climate. We quantified hydraulic traits in Eucalyptus obliqua across a precipitation gradient in the field to describe: 1) trait variation in relation to long-term climate and 2) the short-term (seasonal) ability of traits to adjust (i.e., phenotypic plasticity). Seedlings from each field population were raised under controlled conditions to assess: 3) which traits are under strong genetic control. In the field, drier populations had smaller leaves with anatomically thicker xylem vessel walls, a lower leaf hydraulic vulnerability and a lower water potential at turgor loss point, which likely confers higher hydraulic safety. Traits such as the water potential at turgor loss point and ratio of sapwood to leaf area (Huber Value) showed significant adjustment from wet to dry conditions in the field, indicating phenotypic plasticity and importantly, the ability to increase hydraulic safety in the short-term. In the nursery, seedlings from drier populations had smaller leaves and a lower leaf hydraulic vulnerability, suggesting key traits associated with hydraulic safety are under strong genetic control. Overall, our study suggests that strong genetic control over traits associated with hydraulic safety, which may compromise the survival of wet-origin populations in drier future climates. However, phenotypic plasticity in physiological and morphological traits may confer sufficient hydraulic safety to facilitate genetic adaptation.
Increasing atmospheric CO2 is both leading to climate change and providing a potential fertilisation effect on plant growth. However, southern Australia has also experienced a significant decline in rainfall over the last 30 years, resulting in increased vegetative water stress. To better understand the dynamics and responses of Australian forest ecosystems to drought and elevated CO2, the magnitude and trend in water use efficiency (WUE) of forests, and their response to drought and elevated CO2 from 1982 to 2014 were analysed, using the best available model estimates constrained by observed fluxes from simulations with fixed and time-varying CO2. The ratio of gross primary productivity (GPP) to evapotranspiration (ET) (WUEe) was used to identify the ecosystem scale WUE, while the ratio of GPP to transpiration (Tr) (WUEc) was used as a measure of canopy scale WUE. WUE increased significantly in northern Australia (p < 0.001) for woody savannas (WSA), whereas there was a slight decline in the WUE of evergreen broadleaf forests (EBF) in the southeast and southwest of Australia. The lag of WUEc to drought was consistent and relatively short and stable between biomes (≤3 months), but notably varied for WUEe, with a long time-lag (mean of 10 months). The dissimilar responses of WUEe and WUEc to climate change for different geographical areas result from the different proportion of Tr in ET. CO2 fertilization and a wetter climate enhanced WUE in northern Australia, whereas drought offset the CO2 fertilization effect in southern Australia.
Plant survival during drought requires adequate hydration in living tissues and carbohydrate reserves for maintenance and recovery. We hypothesized that tree growth and hydraulic strategy determines the intensity and duration of the ‘physiological drought’, thereby affecting the relative contributions of loss of hydraulic function and carbohydrate depletion during mortality.
We compared patterns in growth rate, water relations, gas exchange and carbohydrate dynamics in three tree species subjected to prolonged drought.
Two E ucalyptus species ( E . globulus , E . smithii ) exhibited high growth rates and water‐use resulting in rapid declines in water status and hydraulic conductance. In contrast, conservative growth and water relations in P inus radiata resulted in longer periods of negative carbon balance and significant depletion of stored carbohydrates in all organs. The ongoing demand for carbohydrates from sustained respiration highlighted the role that duration of drought plays in facilitating carbohydrate consumption.
Two drought strategies were revealed, differentiated by plant regulation of water status: plants maximized gas exchange, but were exposed to low water potentials and rapid hydraulic dysfunction; and tight regulation of gas exchange at the cost of carbohydrate depletion. These findings provide evidence for a relationship between hydraulic regulation of water status and carbohydrate depletion during terminal drought.
The Tasmanian leaf beetle Paropsisterna bimaculata is a species native to Tasmania that can cause severe defoliation of eucalypt plantations. High populations of P. bimaculata, capable of causing severe defoliation if unmanaged, can periodically occur through a substantial proportion of a plantation rotation. Some exotic insect pests not yet established in Australia, most notably Asian Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar), share the similar characteristic of imposing a threat for a substantial proportion of a plantation rotation. Managing such a threat is operationally complex and requires committing adequate resources to sustain a robust management system. However, the costs and benefits to the plantation owner of sustaining such a management system have not been quantified. The first step of such an analysis is to quantify the gains in additional wood yields from management that protects against severe defoliation of plantations.
Forestry Tasmania has conducted considerable research to develop an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to protect its plantations from damaging populations of P. bimaculata, and has been using this leaf beetle IPM program since the early 2000s. The program has generated many years of operational records from leaf beetle population monitoring. These historical population monitoring data coupled with knowledge of the impact of defoliation by leaf beetles on tree growth were used to estimate how much wood volume has been saved by protecting the Forestry Tasmania plantation estate from damaging large leaf beetle populations over an entire rotation. The probability of above-threshold leaf beetle populations (defined as populations that cause severe defoliation, >50%, if uncontrolled) could be predicted from (1) plantation age (the likelihood of above-threshold populations peaks at age 4–5 years and declines to a low value by age 12 years), and (2) site-level leaf beetle risk (sites of high leaf beetle risk were at higher elevation and closer to native grassland than sites of low leaf beetle risk). Based on these relationships, the occurrence of above-threshold leaf beetle populations was predicted in Forestry Tasmania’s 50 000 ha plantation estate between 2003 and 2034. The leaf beetle IPM program, through controlling these above-threshold populations, was then predicted to be able to avert losses of 2.18 million m³ (9.4% of merchantable wood volume).
Australia’s climate is changing and Australia’s forests have been identified as vulnerable to climate change impacts. The process-based model CABALA, an ensemble of global circulation models, and a range of scenarios on plant response to elevated CO2 (eCO2) and site conditions, were used to predict the direct effects of climate change on the productivity and mortality risks for Australia’s blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) plantation estate. The modelling showed considerable uncertainty about future outcomes across large parts of the estate, with best-case and worst-case scenarios varying from decreased to increased production. In some areas we can be confident of future outcomes. Nevertheless, it is clear that, across the whole estate, appropriate management can reduce risk and ensure that we are able to capitalise on potential beneficial aspects of climate change. Under most future scenarios, without adaptation, the drier parts of the plantation estate are at risk. However, in all but the eastern areas of Western Australia, and at the driest margins of the estate in South Australia and Victoria, adaptation options can reduce risk and ensure productivity. Other areas currently at the cold margins of the estate, notably the highlands of Victoria and across Tasmania, appear to increase in productivity under most future scenarios. Even in those areas where productivity may potentially increase, experience suggests that pests and diseases may pose a risk. If we are to benefit from any aspect of climate change, then pursuit of best-practice sustainable forest management is critical. The greatest source of uncertainty in forecasts is associated with how photosynthesis in field-grown trees will respond to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels (eCO2). Regional differences in global circulation model forecasts are important, particularly in Western Australia, where the extent of future rainfall decline significantly impacts predictions. Local site factors, exemplified in this study by soil depth, will play an important role in modulating climate change impacts, particularly through their role in constraining responses to eCO2.
Climatic changes are likely to alter the distribution and abundance of insect and fungal pests of Australia’s plantations, and consequently the frequency and severity of outbreaks and damage to the host. Using review and synthesis of published literature, we examined these risks in temperate eucalypt and radiata pine plantations in Australia from the perspectives of individual pest and host responses to climate change and the response of the host-pest system to climate. The pests vary in their patterns of damage caused, host tissues affected, season of damage and the stage of stand development targeted. Twenty-one major pests were identified, the majority of which (71%) are defoliators and pests of eucalypt plantations rather than radiata pine plantations. Documented distributions of these pests are presented. The possible consequences of climate change for pest risk are examined in relation to effects on (1) pest lifecycles, (2) pest distribution, (3) frequency and severity of outbreaks, and (4) host susceptibility to damage. An integrated approach for managing pest risk under future climates, that combines these four elements, is desirable. Use of models is necessary to examine species distribution and abundance, and to integrate damage levels with impact on the host. Field monitoring should play an important role, providing data for model validation and to provide a critical link between data on pest species distribution, abundance and damage on the ground. The synthesis is supported with detailed supplementary material for each pest species.
This study used simulation modelling to investigate fire and carbon dynamics for projected warmer and drier climates in the south-eastern Australian high country. A carbon accounting model FullCAM and the landscape fire regime simulator FIRESCAPE were combined and used to simulate several fire management options under three climate scenarios – the recent climate (1975–2005); a moderate climate projected for 2070 (B1); and a more extreme climate projected for 2070 (A1FI). For warmer and drier climates, model simulations predicted (i) an increase in fire incidence; (ii) larger areas burned; (iii) higher mean fire intensities; (iv) shorter fire cycle lengths; (v) a greater proportion of fires burning earlier in the fire season; (vi) a reduction in carbon stores; (vii) a reduction in carbon sequestration rates; and (viii) an increase in the proportion of stored carbon emitted to the atmosphere. Prescribed burning at historical or twice historical levels had no effect on fire or carbon dynamics. In contrast, increasing the initial attack success (a surrogate for suppression) partially offset the adverse effects of warmer and drier climates on fire activity, but not on carbon dynamics. For the south-eastern Australian high country, simulations indicated that fire and carbon dynamics are sensitive to climate change, with simulated fire management only being able to partially offset the adverse effects of warmer and drier climate.
Patterns of adaptive variation within plant species are best studied through common garden experiments, but these are costly and time-consuming, especially for trees that have long generation times. We explored whether genome-wide scanning technology combined with outlier marker detection could be used to detect adaptation to climate and provide an alternative to common garden experiments. As a case study, we sampled nine provenances of the widespread forest tree species, Eucalyptus tricarpa, across an aridity gradient in southeastern Australia. Using a Bayesian analysis we identified a suite of 94 putatively adaptive (outlying) sequence-tagged markers across the genome. Population-level allele frequencies of these outlier markers were strongly correlated with temperature and moisture availability at the site of origin, and with population differences in functional traits measured in two common gardens. Using the output from a canonical analysis of principal coordinates we devised a metric that provides a holistic measure of genomic adaptation to aridity that could be used to guide assisted migration or genetic augmentation.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Carbon (C) sinks created by forests depend on the balance between C uptake through photosynthesis and loss through respiration. This balance varies depending on the relative effect of environmental drivers on these processes. Components and dynamics of the C cycle were measured in a native Eucalyptus delegatensis forest at Tumbarumba in south-eastern Australia during conditions of average rainfall (1998–2001) and droughts (2002–2003 and 2006–2007). In 2002–03 there were interacting disturbance factors of dry conditions and insect damage that reduced the photosynthetically active leaf area in the canopy. Conditions during the droughts included reduced soil moisture content, higher temperatures and increased vapour pressure deficit. Similarly low soil moisture contents occurred during both drought periods, but lasted for longer in 2002–03. The combined impact of drought stress and insect damage resulted in markedly reduced growth (45–80%) and higher mortality of trees (5–60%). Impacts were variable across the 50,000ha of forest, with mortality greatest in stands with normally highest growth rates, and in locations with greatest reductions in soil moisture. Growth rates were reduced during 2002–03, most severely in 2003–04, and recovering in 2004–05. Mortality remained high in 2004–05 indicating the prolonged effect of the stress conditions. The total C pool in the forest is 483tCha−1 with net C uptake of −6.7tCha−1yr−1 in the growing season prior to the insect attack (2001–02). Under conditions of drought and insect disturbance in 2003 the forest released a total of 1.7tCha−1 over 8 months, while under conditions of drought alone carbon uptake was −6.5tCha−1yr−1 in the growing season year of 2006–07 and −5.6tCha−1yr−1 in the calendar year of 2007. Interacting stress factors of drought and insect damage resulted in a large imbalance in the C budget with a 26% reduction in gross primary productivity and a 9% reduction in ecosystem respiration, whereas drought alone had a much lesser effect. Drought conditions result in (1) weather conditions that break the synchronisation of insects with parasites and predators resulting in insect outbreaks, (2) moisture stress that predisposes trees to attack by insects, and (3) moisture stress that restricts leaf regeneration after damage. Climate change and climatically induced changes in disturbance regimes may affect the processes of photosynthesis and respiration differently and hence change the balance of net ecosystem C exchange. Reduced sink strength of forests will lead to positive C cycle–climate feedbacks, which enhance the greenhouse effect and climate change.
Free air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments are considered the most reliable approach for quantifying our expectations of forest ecosystem responses to changing atmospheric CO2 concentrations [CO2]. Because very few Australian tree species have been studied in this way, or are likely to be studied in the near future because of the high installation and maintenance costs of FACE, there are no clear answers to questions such as: (1) which species will be the winners in Australia's natural forests and what are the implications for biodiversity and carbon (C) sequestration; and (2) which will be the most appropriate species or genotypes to ensure the sustainability of Australia's plantation forests.We examined possible experimental approaches that may provide insights into, and more rapid assessment of, responses to elevated [CO2]. Our main conclusions were: (1) better understanding the extent to which species are C-limited could indicate when elevated [CO2] might be expected to increase photosynthesis and biomass production. Plant tissue carbohydrate concentrations can be used to assess any C limitation. Consistently high levels of carbohydrates indicate that plants are not C limited, but rather that growth is determined by other limiting resources or by rates of cell development and expansion; (2) historical examination of forest responses to increasing atmospheric [CO2] using stable isotopes in wood cores can provide clues as to which species may respond favourably to increasing [CO2], although it may remain difficult to distinguish between the environmental conditions under which favourable responses occurred. Undertaking stable isotope studies close to anthropogenic CO2 sources has the potential to provide insights into how species may respond to the higher [CO2] that is predicted during this century; (3) by focusing on genetic and metabolomic regulation of source and sink activity, selection for greater biomass production under elevated [CO2] is possible.
After presenting a short review of process-based model requirements to capture the plant dynamic response to defoliation, this paper describes the development and testing of a model of crown damage and defoliation for Eucalyptus. A model that calculates light interception and photosynthetic production for canopies that vary spatially and temporally in leaf area and photosynthetic properties is linked to the forest growth model CABALA. The process of photosynthetic up-regulation following defoliation is modelled with a simple conditional switch that triggers up-regulation when foliar damage or removal causes the ratio of functional leaf area to living tissue in the tree to change.We show that the model predicts satisfactorily when validated with trees of Eucalyptus nitens and Eucalyptus globulus from a range of sites of different ages, subject to different types of stress and different types of defoliation events (R2=0.96 across a range of sites). However, the complexity of particular situations can cause the model to fail (e.g. very heavy defoliation events where branch death occurs).It is concluded that while the model will not cope with all situations, an appropriate level of generality has been captured to represent many of the physiological processes and feedbacks that occur following defoliation or leaf damage. This makes the model useful for guiding management interventions following pest attack and allows the development of scenarios including climate change impact analyses and decision-making on the merits of post-defoliation fertilisation to expedite recovery.
There are presently few tools available for estimating epidemic risks from forest pathogens, and hence informing pro-active disease management. In this study we demonstrated that a bioclimatic niche model can be used to examine questions of epidemic risk in temperate eucalypt plantations. The bioclimatic niche model, CLIMEX, was used to identify regional variation in climate suitability for Mycosphaerella leaf disease (MLD), a major cause of foliage damage in temperate eucalypt plantations around the world. Using historical observations of MLD damage, we were able to convert the relative score of climatic suitability generated by CLIMEX into a severity ranking ranging from low to high, providing for the first time a direct link between risk and impact, and allowing us to explore disease severity in a way meaningful to forest managers. We determined that the ‘Compare Years’ function in CLIMEX could be used for site-specific risk assessment to identify severity, frequency and seasonality of MLD epidemics. We explored appropriate scales of risk assessment for forest managers. Applying the CLIMEX model of MLD using a 0.25° or coarser grid size to areas of sharp topographic relief frequently misrepresented the risk posed by MLD, because considerable variation occurred between individual forest sites encompassed within a single grid cell. This highlighted the need for site-specific risk assessment to address many questions pertinent to managing risk in plantations.
We examined the impacts of a defoliating pest, Mycosphaerella leaf disease (MLD), on rotation-length Eucalyptus globulus plantation productivity under current and future climates by using the ecoclimatic species niche model CLIMEX to generate severity, frequency and seasonality scenarios for MLD for specific E. globulus sites. These scenarios were used as inputs to the process-based forest productivity model CABALA. Climate projections from two global climate models were used to drive CABALA with either no or full acclimation of photosynthesis to elevated atmospheric CO2 assumed. In addition we varied water and nitrogen availability to examine the impacts of different severities of MLD on plantation productivity across environmental gradients. We predicted that, under current climatic conditions, rotation-length reductions in V associated with MLD damage would be no greater than 12%, with an across-site average of 6%. There was considerable between-site variation in predictions that reflected variation in site productivity. Under future climates, we predicted that MLD may reduce rotation length V by as much as 42%, although the reduction averaged across all sites was 11%. The predicted impact of MLD on V was greatest at lower productivity sites. The importance of N and water availability in recovery following MLD attack was highlighted. Uncertainty in model predictions revolved around the climate models used and assumptions of degree of photosynthetic acclimation to elevated CO2. Large differences in predicted impact of MLD were associated with this uncertainty. Our results suggest that the effects of defoliation due to pests on plantation productivity should not be ignored when considering future management of forest plantations. The approach developed here provides managers with a tool to appraise risk and examine possible impacts of management interventions designed to reduce or manage risk.
The occurrence of tree deaths in young, 3 to 6year old Eucalyptus globulus plantations established on farmland in south-western Australia was found to be strongly related to factors indicative of
poor soil water storage capacity. Seven years after planting tree survival was significantly less on soils <2m deep compared
to >2m deep (22% vs 70%). This is due to the limited ability of some soils to store a sufficient proportion of the annual
rainfall within the root-zone to meet the plant water demand in a region with a recurrent annual summer drought. There are
practical difficulties in routinely surveying soils to depths in excess of 2m over broad areas, to predict the likelihood
of tree death. On the granitic basement rocks of south-west Western Australia, the occurrence of ferricrete gravels provides
a useful surrogate indicator for the presence of deeper soils. In this region the distribution of soil depth and soil fertility
has a geomorphic basis, being related to previous patterns of deep weathering and regolith stripping. Soils have developed
on various horizons of deeply weathered profiles, formed from granites and gneisses. These materials have been stripped to
a variable extent by erosion, leading to a range of soil depths. The original weathered profiles, which correspond to the
soils with ferricrete gravels, comprise the deepest soil/regolith materials (~30-50m deep); whereas along drainage lines
the regolith has been completely stripped, the soils are shallow and plantations are most susceptible to drought. Knowledge
of the relationship between soil depth and plantation performance allows regional indications of drought risk to be developed
from regional soil mapping and the production of more efficient sampling designs for site assessment.
Forest managers now operate in an information-rich but increasingly challenging environment in which the competing demands of environmental stewardship and sustainable management must counter-balance the demands of increased production and profitability. Management support tools, in particular, decision support systems are essential aids in this operating environment. A dynamic forest growth model, CArbon BALAnce (CABALA), that links carbon, water and nitrogen flows through the atmosphere, trees and soil including soil organic matter is presented here as a central part of a silvicultural decision support system.The strong linkage between stand biomass allocation and external environmental conditions make CABALA a model suitable for exploring stand management options and the effects of factors such as frost and drought on growth.The model performance is verified extensively using fertiliser, spacing and thinning trials. Predictions of nitrogen mineralisation, light interception, plant water stress, and biomass allocation as well as stand growth and stand leaf area index are tested with observed data.
Net primary production links the biosphere and the climate system through the global cycling of carbon, water and nutrients. Accurate quantification of net primary productivity (NPP) is therefore critical in understanding the response of the world's ecosystems to global climate change, and how changes in ecosystems might themselves feed back to the climate system. Twelve model estimates of long-term annual NPP for the Australian continent were reviewed. These models varied considerably in the approaches adopted and the inputs required. The model estimates ranged 5-fold, from 0.67 to 3.31 GtCy -1. Within-continent variation was similarly large, with most of the discrepancies occurring in the arid zone of Australia, which comprises most of the continent. It is also within this zone that empirical NPP data are most lacking. Comparison with a recent global-scale analysis of six dynamic global vegetation models showed a similar level of variability in continental total NPP, 0.38 to 2.85 GtCy-1, and similar within-continent spatial variability. As a first tentative step towards model validation the twelve NPP estimates were compared with existing field measurements, although the ability to reach definitive conclusions was limited by insufficient data, and incompatibilities between the field-based observations and the model predictions. It was concluded that the current NPP-modelling capability falls short of the accuracy required for effective application in understanding the terrestrial biospheric implications of global atmospheric/climatic change. Potential methods that could be used in future work for improving modelled estimates of Australian continental NPP and their validation are discussed. These include increasing the spatial coverage of empirical NPP estimates within arid ecosystems, the use of existing high quality site data for more detailed model exploration, and a formal model inter-comparison using uniform driver datasets to investigate more intensively differences in model behaviour and assumptions.