The effects of repeated droughts on different kinds of forests — ScienceDaily


Drought is endemic to the American West along with heatwaves and intense wildfires. But scientists are only beginning to understand how the effects of multiple droughts can compound to affect forests differently than a single drought alone.

UC Santa Barbara forest ecologist Anna Trugman — along with her colleagues at the University of Utah, Stanford University and the U.S. Forest Service — investigated the effects of repeated, extreme droughts on various types of forests across the globe. They found that a variety of factors can increase and decrease a forest’s resilience to subsequent droughts. However, the study, published in Nature Climate Change, concluded that successive droughts are generally increasingly detrimental to forests, even when each drought was no more extreme than the initial one.

Droughts usually leave individual trees more vulnerable to subsequent droughts. “Compounding extreme events can be really stressful on forests and trees,” said Trugman, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography. She compares the experience to a person battling an illness: You’ll be harder hit if you get sick again while you’re still recovering.

That said, the case is not quite so clear cut. “Theoretically, responses to subsequent droughts could be quite varied depending on a wide range of tree-level and ecosystem-level factors,” said lead author William Anderegg, an assistant professor at the University of Utah. So, while a drought may place a tree under considerable stress, it could also kill off some of its neighbors, leaving the survivors with less competition for water should arid conditions return.

Trugman and her colleagues used a variety of data sources to investigate this effect on a broad scale. Tree ring data spanning over 100 years enabled them to see how trees that survived an initial drought grew afterward. Data from the U.S. Forest Inventory and Analysis gave

Droughts are threatening global wetlands — ScienceDaily


University of Adelaide scientists have shown how droughts are threatening the health of wetlands globally.

Published in the journal Earth-Science Reviews, the scientists highlight the many physical and chemical changes occurring during droughts that lead to severe, and sometimes irreversible, drying of wetland soils.

“Wetlands around the world are incredibly important for maintaining our planet’s biodiversity and they store vast amounts of carbon that can help fight climate change,” says project leader Associate Professor Luke Mosley, from the University’s Environment Institute and School of Biological Sciences.

“Globally, wetlands cover an area greater than 12.1 million square kilometres and deliver at least A$37.8 trillion (Int$27 trillion) in benefits per year, such as for flood mitigation, food production, water quality improvement and carbon storage.”

Wetlands can suffer “water droughts” both from the effects of a drier climate, and also when excessive water is extracted or diverted that would normally flow into them.

The review paper describes how drought often leads to severe cracking and compaction, acidification, loss of organic matter, and enhanced greenhouse gas (for example methane) emissions. In some cases droughts can lead to very long-term (>10 years) and irreversible soil changes, with major impacts on water quality when soils are rewet after the drought ends.

“We have seen many examples of how drought in the Murray-Darling Basin has caused major issues including acidification of soil and water due to acid sulfate soils exposure in wetlands. This review highlights substantial gaps in our global understanding of the effects of drought on wet soils and how they will respond to increasing drought,” says Associate Professor Mosley, who is also Deputy Director of the Acid Sulfate Soils Centre.

Effects can be different in different soil types and different regions of the world. The spatial distribution of drought studies shows there has been