The interdependence of mechanisms underlying climate-driven vegetation mortality

Nate G. McDowell, David J. Beerling, David D. Breshears, Rosie A. Fisher, Kenneth F. Raffa, Mark Stitt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

798 Scopus citations


Climate-driven vegetation mortality is occurring globally and is predicted to increase in the near future. The expected climate feedbacks of regional-scale mortality events have intensified the need to improve the simple mortality algorithms used for future predictions, but uncertainty regarding mortality processes precludes mechanistic modeling. By integrating new evidence from a wide range of fields, we conclude that hydraulic function and carbohydrate and defense metabolism have numerous potential failure points, and that these processes are strongly interdependent, both with each other and with destructive pathogen and insect populations. Crucially, most of these mechanisms and their interdependencies are likely to become amplified under a warmer, drier climate. Here, we outline the observations and experiments needed to test this interdependence and to improve simulations of this emergent global phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-532
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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