, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 69-80
Date: 09 Nov 2012

Landscape-scale assessment of tree crown dieback following extreme drought and heat in a Mediterranean eucalypt forest ecosystem


Mediterranean regions are under increasing pressure from global climate changes. Many have experienced more frequent extreme weather events such as droughts and heatwaves, which have severe implications for the persistence of forest ecosystems. This study reports on a landscape-scale assessment investigating potential associated factors of crown dieback in dominant tree species following an extreme dry and hot year/summer of 2010/11 in the Northern Jarrah Forest of Western Australia. Analyses focussed on the influence of (i) geology, (ii) topography, (iii) climate, and (iv) fire history. The results showed that trees on specific soils were more likely to show canopy dieback. Generally, trees on rocky soils with low water holding capacity were found to be affected more frequently. Other explanatory factors identified that dieback occurred (i) on sites that were close to rock outcrops, (ii) in areas that received a slightly higher amount of annual rainfall compared to the surrounding landscape, (iii) on sites at high elevations and (vi) on steep slopes, and (v) in areas that were generally slightly warmer than their surroundings. These results expand our understanding of how landscape-scale factors contribute to the effects of an extreme drought and heating event in Mediterranean forest ecosystems, and give indications of where changes are likely to occur within the landscape in the future. The analogues with other Mediterranean climate regions make the results of this study transferable and a starting point for further investigations.