Research frontiers for improving our understanding of drought-induced tree and forest mortality

Henrik Hartmann, Catarina F. Moura, William R.L. Anderegg, Nadine K. Ruehr, Yann Salmon, Craig D. Allen, Stefan K. Arndt, David D. Breshears, Hendrik Davi, David Galbraith, Katinka X. Ruthrof, Jan Wunder, Henry D. Adams, Jasper Bloemen, Maxime Cailleret, Richard Cobb, Arthur Gessler, Thorsten E.E. Grams, Steven Jansen, Markus KautzFrancisco Lloret, Michael O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

321 Scopus citations


Accumulating evidence highlights increased mortality risks for trees during severe drought, particularly under warmer temperatures and increasing vapour pressure deficit (VPD). Resulting forest die-off events have severe consequences for ecosystem services, biophysical and biogeochemical land–atmosphere processes. Despite advances in monitoring, modelling and experimental studies of the causes and consequences of tree death from individual tree to ecosystem and global scale, a general mechanistic understanding and realistic predictions of drought mortality under future climate conditions are still lacking. We update a global tree mortality map and present a roadmap to a more holistic understanding of forest mortality across scales. We highlight priority research frontiers that promote: (1) new avenues for research on key tree ecophysiological responses to drought; (2) scaling from the tree/plot level to the ecosystem and region; (3) improvements of mortality risk predictions based on both empirical and mechanistic insights; and (4) a global monitoring network of forest mortality. In light of recent and anticipated large forest die-off events such a research agenda is timely and needed to achieve scientific understanding for realistic predictions of drought-induced tree mortality. The implementation of a sustainable network will require support by stakeholders and political authorities at the international level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-28
Number of pages14
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • carbon–water cycling
  • dynamic vegetation models
  • insects and pathogens
  • monitoring network
  • tree death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Research frontiers for improving our understanding of drought-induced tree and forest mortality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this