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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Drought-Induced Mortality of Trees: Ecosystem Changes under Climate Change

Location: Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Project Number: 6206-11220-005-11
Project Type: Reimbursable

Start Date: Oct 01, 2012
End Date: Aug 31, 2015

Objective:
Tree mortality rates are increasing globally, partly as a result of changes in weather patterns (climate change). Mortality may result in the loss of large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. Objectives of this work are to 1) quantify effects of the recent drought on tree mortality on central Texas and Oklahoma rangelands, 2) determine causes of mortality (carbon starvation, hydraulic failure, or some combination of the two), and 3) predict tree mortality under continued drought and the consequences of increased mortality for landscape-scale carbon dynamics.

Approach:
We will use high spatial resolution (0.5-5 m) multispectral imagery to evaluate mortality of adult trees during the period from 2008 to 2014. High resolution images are available from the USDA for pre-drought (2008) analysis. Satellite imagery will be acquired for post-drought analysis (2012-2014). Mortality and loss of live crown area will be validated by field inspection. We will measure vulnerability to hydraulic failure in roots and stems, transpiration, plant water status, and net photosynthesis and respiration for six dominant tree species. A soil–vegetation–atmosphere carbon and water transfer model will be used to evaluate whether mortality under drought results from hydraulic failure or inadequate carbon. The model will be applied to predict future patterns of water use, carbon exchange, and tree mortality.

Last Modified: 8/30/2014
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