Patrick Meir's research while affiliated with Australian National University and other places

Publications (239)

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Extreme drought events in Amazon forests are expected to become more frequent and more intense with climate change, threatening ecosystem function and carbon balance. Yet large uncertainties exist on the resilience of this ecosystem to drought. A better quantification of tree hydraulics and mortality processes is needed to anticipate future drought...
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The continued functioning of tropical forests under climate change depends on their resilience to drought and heat. However, there is little understanding of how tropical forests will respond to combinations of these stresses, and no field studies to date have explicitly evaluated whether sustained drought alters sensitivity to temperature. We meas...
Preprint
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The ecosystem pressure-volume curve (EPV) is the relationship between vegetation water content and a representative value of water potential applied on a ground-area basis. The EPV attempts to reconcile our detailed and physically rigorous understanding of small-scale field-measurable processes to the spatial scale applicable to ecosystem and clima...
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Perturbation of soil microbial communities by rising temperatures could have important consequences for biodiversity and future climate, particularly in tropical forests where high biological diversity coincides with a vast store of soil carbon. We carried out a 2-year in situ soil warming experiment in a tropical forest in Panama and found large c...
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Tropical forests take up more carbon (C) from the atmosphere per annum by photosynthesis than any other type of vegetation. Phosphorus (P) limitations to C uptake are paramount for tropical and subtropical forests around the globe. Yet the generality of photosynthesis-P relationships underlying these limitations are in question, and hence are not r...
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The productivity of rainforests growing on highly weathered tropical soils is expected to be limited by phosphorus availability¹. Yet, controlled fertilization experiments have been unable to demonstrate a dominant role for phosphorus in controlling tropical forest net primary productivity. Recent syntheses have demonstrated that responses to nitro...
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1. Occult precipitation events (fog, dew, light‐rain) can alter plant water and nutritional status, both directly through the aerial uptake of surface water and nutrients, and indirectly via redistribution of atmospheric resources to the soil. However, current frameworks that explain niche segregation, species interactions, and coexistence still co...
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Predicting species‐level responses to drought at the landscape scale is critical to reducing uncertainty in future terrestrial carbon and water cycle projections. We embedded a stomatal optimisation model in the Community Atmosphere Biosphere Land Exchange (CABLE) land surface model and parameterised the model for 15 canopy dominant eucalypt tree s...
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Climate change is one of the primary agents of the global decline in insect abundance. Because of their narrow thermal ranges, tropical ectotherms are predicted to be most threatened by global warming, yet tests of this prediction are often confounded by other anthropogenic disturbances. We used a tropical forest soil warming experiment to directly...
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Climate warming could destabilize the Earth’s largest terrestrial store of reactive carbon (C), by accelerating the decomposition of soil organic matter. A third of that C store resides in the tropics. The potential for tropical soils to sequester C, or to act as an additional source of CO2, will depend on the balance of C inputs and outputs, media...
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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 c...
Preprint
Full-text available
Extreme drought events in Amazon forests are expected to become more frequent and more intense with climate change, threatening ecosystem function and carbon balance. Yet large uncertainties exist on the resilience of this ecosystem to drought. A better quantification of tree hydraulics and mortality processes is needed to anticipate future drought...
Article
Full-text available
Soil-leaf hydraulic conductance determines canopy-atmosphere coupling in vegetation models, but is typically derived from ex-situ measurements of stem segments and soil samples. Using a novel approach we derive robust in-situ estimates for whole tree conductance (ktree ), 'functional' soil conductance (ksoil ), and 'system' conductance (ksystem , w...
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PurposePlant-soil feedbacks are important drivers of ecosystem dynamics and have been hypothesized to affect woody encroachment in savannas. Woody encroachment is expected to increases savanna soil fertility through deposition of organic matter, favoring further establishment of woody individuals. In this context, we tested if litter input promotes...
Article
Tropical forests are the most productive terrestrial ecosystems, fixing over 40 Pg of carbon from the atmosphere each year. A substantial portion of this carbon is allocated belowground to roots and root‐associated microorganisms. However, there have been very few empirical studies on the dynamics of this below‐ground transfer, especially in tropic...
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Droughts in a warming climate have become more common and more extreme, making understanding forest responses to water stress increasingly pressing. Analysis of water stress in trees has long focused on water potential in xylem and leaves, which influences stomatal closure and water flow through the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. At the same time...
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Elevation gradients present enigmatic diversity patterns, with trends often dependent on the dimension of diversity considered. However, focus is often on patterns of taxonomic diversity and interactions between diversity gradients and evolutionary factors, such as lineage age, are poorly understood. We combine forest census data with a genus level...
Preprint
Full-text available
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 ci...
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Ecological theory is built on trade-offs, where trait differences among species evolved as adaptations to different environments. Trade-offs are often assumed to be bidirectional, where opposite ends of a gradient in trait values confer advantages in different environments. However, unidirectional benefits could be widespread if extreme trait value...
Preprint
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It is easy to measure annual growth of a tree stem. It is hard to measure its daily growth. The reason for this difficulty is the microscopic scale and the need to separate processes that simultaneously result in reversible and irreversible stem expansion. Here we present a model that separates reversible from irreversible cell expansion. Our model...
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Plant transpiration links physiological responses of vegetation to water supply and demand with hydrological, energy, and carbon budgets at the land–atmosphere interface. However, despite being the main land evaporative flux at the global scale, transpiration and its response to environmental drivers are currently not well constrained by observatio...
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Fine roots constitute a significant component of the net primary productivity (NPP) of forest ecosystems but are much less studied than above‐ground NPP. Comparisons across sites and regions are also hampered by inconsistent methodologies, especially in tropical areas. Here, we present a novel dataset of fine root biomass, productivity, residence t...
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Most leaf functional trait studies in the Amazon basin do not consider ontogenetic variations (leaf age), which may influence ecosystem productivity throughout the year. When leaf age is taken into account, it is generally considered discontinuous, and leaves are classified into age categories based on qualitative observations. Here, we quantified...
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Microbiota are essential components of the soil, driving biogeochemical cycles. Fungi affect decomposition and biotic interactions with plants across scales. Climate projections suggest that extended dry seasons may transform sensitive rain forests into savanna-like vegetation, with consequent changes in biogeochemistry. Here we compare the impacts...
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A large portion of the terrestrial vegetation carbon stock is stored in the above-ground biomass (AGB) of tropical forests, but the exact amount remains uncertain, partly owing to the lack of measurements. To date, accessible peer-reviewed data are available for just 10 large tropical trees in the Amazon that have been harvested and directly measur...
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A Correction to this paper has been published: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20537-x
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A rich understanding of the productivity, carbon and nutrient cycling of terrestrial ecosystems is essential in the context of understanding, modelling and managing the future response of the biosphere to global change. This need is particularly acute in tropical ecosystems, home to over 60% of global terrestrial productivity, over half of planetar...
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Do tropical trees close to death have a distinct change to their leaf spectral signature? Tree mortality rates have been increasing in tropical forests, reducing the global carbon sink. Upcoming hyperspectral satellites could be used to predict regions close to experiencing extensive tree mortality during periods of stress, such as drought. Here we...
Article
Soil nutrient availability can strongly affect root traits. In tropical forests, phosphorus (P) is often considered the main limiting nutrient for plants. However, support for the P paradigm is limited, and N and cations might also control tropical forests functioning. We used a large‐scale experiment to determine how the factorial addition of nitr...
Preprint
•Tropical forests are the most productive terrestrial ecosystem, fixing around 41 Pg of carbon from the atmosphere each year. A substantial portion of this carbon is allocated belowground to roots and root-associated microorganisms. However, there have been very few empirical studies on the dynamics of this transfer, especially in tropical forests...
Article
Canopy wetness is a common condition that influences photosynthesis, the leaching or uptake of solutes, the water status and energy balance of canopies, and the interpretation of eddy covariance and remote sensing data. While often treated as a binary variable, ‘wet’ or ‘dry’, forest canopies are often partially wet, requiring the use of a continuo...
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The carbon sink capacity of tropical forests is substantially affected by tree mortality. However, the main drivers of tropical tree death remain largely unknown. Here we present a pan-Amazonian assessment of how and why trees die, analysing over 120,000 trees representing > 3800 species from 189 long-term RAINFOR forest plots. While tree mortality...
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An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
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) Whether tropical trees acclimate to long-term drought stress remains unclear. This uncertainty is amplified if drought stress is accompanied by changes in other drivers such as the increases in canopy light exposure that might be induced by tree mortality or other disturbances. 2) Photosynthetic capacity, leaf respiration, non-structural carbohyd...
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Understanding how evolutionary constraints shape the elevational distributions of tree lineages provides valuable insight into the future of tropical montane forests under global change. With narrow elevational ranges, high taxonomic turnover, frequent habitat specialization, and exceptional levels of endemism, tropical montane forests and trees ar...
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Plant traits are increasingly being used to improve prediction of plant function, including plant demography. However, the capability of plant traits to predict demographic rates remains uncertain, particularly in the context of trees experiencing a changing climate. Here we present data combining 17 plant traits associated with plant structure, me...
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Leaf-area-index (LAI) underpins terrestrial ecosystem functioning, yet our ability to predict LAI remains limited. Across Amazon forests, mean LAI, LAI seasonal dynamics, and leaf-traits vary with soil moisture-stress. We hypothesise that LAI variation can be predicted via an optimality-based approach, using net canopy C-export (NCE, photosynthesis...
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Florestas tropicais são reguladoras do clima e o padrão de variabilidade dos elementos meteorológicos representa fisicamente interdependência entre os fluxos térmicos e hídricos para a floresta e a atmosfera. A presente investigação analisa uma série de dados (precipitação, temperatura do ar, umidade relativa do ar, radiação solar global, velocidad...
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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 analyses 860 high-resolution R-T (10-70°C range) curves for: (a) 62 evergreen species measured in...
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A floresta amazônica apresenta elevadas temperaturas e grandes quantidades de precipitações anuais, embora ocorram grandes variações interanuais desses elementos meteorológicos. A temperatura do ar (Tar) e a umidade relativa do ar (UR) dentro e acima de uma floresta são resultado de complexas trocas energéticas através dos processos de reflexão, tr...
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Tropical soils contain one-third of the carbon stored in soils globally1, so destabilization of soil organic matter caused by the warming predicted for tropical regions this century2 could accelerate climate change by releasing additional carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere3–6. Theory predicts that warming should cause only modest carbon loss fr...
Preprint
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Environmental change scenarios caused by low precipitation forecast species loss in tropical regions. We use one year of data from a long-term rainwater exclusion experiment in primary Amazonian rainforest to test whether induced water stress and covarying changes in soil moisture, soil respiration, tree species richness, diversity, size, and total...
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Accurately representing the response of ecosystems to environmental change in land surface models (LSMs) is crucial to making accurate predictions of future climate. Many LSMs do not correctly capture plant respiration and growth fluxes, particularly in response to extreme climatic events. This is in part due to the unrealistic assumption that tota...
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The response of small understory trees to long‐term drought is vital in determining the future composition, carbon stocks and dynamics of tropical forests. Long‐term drought is, however, also likely to expose understory trees to increased light availability driven by drought‐induced mortality. Relatively little is known about the potential for unde...
Preprint
Full-text available
Understanding how evolutionary constraints shape the elevational distributions of tree lineages provides valuable insight into the future of tropical montane forests under global change. With narrow elevational ranges, high taxonomic turnover, frequent habitat specialisation, and exceptional levels of endemism, tropical montane forests and trees ar...
Article
South‐East Australia has recently been subjected to two of the worst droughts in the historical record (Millennium Drought, 2000–2009 and Big Dry, 2017–2019). Unfortunately, a lack of forest monitoring has made it difficult to determine whether widespread tree mortality has resulted from these droughts. Anecdotal observations suggest the Big Dry ma...
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Background and aims Ancient Amazon soils are characterised by low concentrations of soil phosphorus (P). Therefore, it is hypothesised that plants may invest a substantial proportion of their resources belowground to adjust their P-uptake strategies, including root morphological, physiological (phosphatase enzyme activities) and biotic (arbuscular...
Preprint
Do tropical trees close to death have a distinct leaf spectral signature? Tree mortality rates have been increasing in tropical forests globally which is reducing the global carbon sink. Upcoming hyperspectral satellites could be used to predict regions close to experiencing extensive tree mortality during periods of stress like drought. Here we sh...
Article
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The fate of tropical forests under future climate change is dependent on the capacity of their trees to adjust to drier conditions. The capacity of trees to withstand drought is likely to be determined by traits associated with their hydraulic systems. However, data on whether tropical trees can adjust hydraulic traits when experiencing drought rem...
Article
Changes in rainfall amounts and patterns have been observed and are expected to continue in the near future with potentially significant ecological and societal consequences. Modelling vegetation responses to changes in rainfall is thus crucial to project water and carbon cycles in the future. In this study, we present the results of a new model-da...
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•Land surface models (LSMs) typically use empirical functions to represent vegetation responses to soil drought. These functions largely neglect recent advances in plant ecophysiology that link xylem hydraulic functioning with stomatal responses to climate. •We developed an analytical stomatal optimisation model based on xylem hydraulics (SOX) to p...
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Plant traits—the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants—determine how plants respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels, and influence ecosystem properties and their benefits and detriments to people. Plant trait data thus represent the basis for a vast area of research sp...
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The capacity of Amazon forests to sequester carbon is threatened by climate-change-induced shifts in precipitation patterns. However, the relative importance of plant physiology, ecosystem structure and trait composition responses in determining variation in gross primary productivity (GPP) remain largely unquantified and vary among models. We eval...
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Tropical soils contain huge carbon stocks, which climate warming is projected to reduce by stimulating organic matter decomposition, creating a positive feedback that will promote further warming. Models predict that the loss of carbon from warming soils will be mediated by microbial physiology, but no empirical data are available on the response o...
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Foliar water uptake, the uptake of atmospheric water directly into leaves, has been reported to occur in nearly 200 species spanning a wide range of ecosystems distributed globally. Until recently, this flux has not been taken into consideration in land–surface models representing global fluxes of water, in interpreting plant hydraulic status or in...
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RESUMO: As florestas tropicais são importantes para regulação do clima tanto na escala local, como na global, onde o estudo dos elementos meteorológicos neesas ares são de grande importância. O objetivo foi estudar a variabilidade média horária e mensal da precipitação pluviométrica, radiação solar global, temperatura e umidade relativa do ar em um...
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The capacity of Amazon forests to sequester carbon is threatened by climate change-induced shifts in precipitation patterns. However, the relative importance of plant physiology, ecosystem structure, and trait composition responses in determining variation in GPP, remain largely unquantified, and vary among models. We evaluate the relative importan...
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The absorption of atmospheric water directly into leaves enables plants to alleviate the water stress caused by low soil moisture, hydraulic resistance in the xylem and the effect of gravity on the water column, whilst enabling plants to scavenge small inputs of water from leaf wetting events. By increasing the availability of water, and supplying...
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Tropical vegetation biomass represents a key component of the carbon stored in global forest ecosystems. Estimates of aboveground biomass commonly rely on measurements of tree size (diameter and height) and then indirectly relate, via allometric relationships and wood density, to biomass sampled from a relatively small number of harvested and weigh...