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Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 69–80 | Cite as

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

  • Niels Brouwers
  • George Matusick
  • Katinka Ruthrof
  • Thomas Lyons
  • Giles Hardy
Research Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Climate change Drought effects Heat effects Warming Die-off Dieback Tree mortality Forest mortality Soils Topography Geology 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We like to thank the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) for their support, particularly Mike Pez for helping with aerial photography. For providing spatial datasets we like to thank Graeme Behn, Geoffrey Banks, Michael Raykos, Greg Strelein, John Dunn, and Martin Rayner from DEC; Damian Shepherd and Jeffrey Watson from the Department of Agriculture and Food; and Peter Biggs and Michael Raupach from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research for access to the Australian Water Availability Project (AWAP) datasets. We further like to thank Brad Evans (Murdoch University) for providing useful datasets, Michael Renton (University of Western Australia) for statistical advice, and two anonymous referees for their useful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This research was undertaken as part of the State Centre of Excellence for Climate Change, Woodland and Forest Health.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Niels Brouwers
    • 1
  • George Matusick
    • 2
  • Katinka Ruthrof
    • 2
  • Thomas Lyons
    • 1
  • Giles Hardy
    • 2
  1. 1.State Centre of Excellence for Climate Change, Woodland and Forest Health, School of Environmental ScienceMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  2. 2.State Centre of Excellence for Climate Change, Woodland and Forest Health, School of Biological Sciences and BiotechnologyMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia

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