Tree-ring variation in pinyon predicts likelihood of death following severe drought

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Abstract

A severe drought in northern Arizona caused widespread pinyon (Pinus edulis) mortality, exceeding 40% in some populations. We measured tree-ring widths of pinyons that survived and that died in three sites designated as 'high,' 'medium,' and 'low' stress. Growth characteristics during the previous 10-15 years can be used to predict the likelihood of drought-induced death; dead trees exhibited 1.5 times greater variation in growth than live trees. A model of ring-width deviations vs. drought severity showed a loss of 'climatic sensitivity' with age in dead trees. These differences were independent of site. We found two distinct tree types that are predisposed to die during drought; highly sensitive young trees, and insensitive older trees. As the Southwest has a dynamic climate typified by severe droughts, it is important to understand how droughts act as bottleneck events to affect a dominant tree in a major vegetation type of the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3237-3243
Number of pages7
JournalEcology
Volume81
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • Climatic sensitivity
  • Drought
  • Environmental stress
  • Mortality, likelihood following drought
  • Pinus edulis
  • Pinyon pine
  • Tree rings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

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