Assessing spatial and temporal patterns of canopy decline across a diverse montane landscape in the Klamath Mountains, CA, USA using a 30-year Landsat time series

  • Drew S. BostEmail author
  • Matthew J. Reilly
  • Erik S. Jules
  • Melissa H. DeSiervo
  • Zhiqiang Yang
  • Ramona J. Butz
Research Article



Tree mortality is of considerable concern, but the magnitude and extent of forest canopy decline are relatively unknown in landscapes with high levels of topographic complexity, spatial heterogeneity, and species diversity. We assessed 30 years of canopy decline, including a 5-year period characterized by extreme drought, in one of North America’s most diverse landscapes in the Klamath Mountains of northern California, USA.


(1) Characterize tree mortality by species, (2) Quantify temporal and spatial patterns of remotely-sensed canopy decline in relation to climate, (3) Compare canopy decline among vegetation types, topographic settings, and stand structural classes during drought.


We characterized tree mortality by species with field data and quantified the role of climate on canopy decline with a 30-year Landsat time series. We assessed and compared the role of topography and stand structure on canopy decline during drought.


Most tree mortality and canopy decline occurred at higher elevations in Shasta red fir (Abies magnifica var. shastensis) and subalpine forests. Annual area of canopy decline was positively correlated with summer temperature and minimum vapor pressure deficit but not precipitation. The area of canopy decline was three times greater during the drought. The magnitude of decline was greatest at higher elevations, on more exposed, southwestern slopes, and in stands with old-growth structure. Stands in valleys and low slopes experienced relatively little decline.


Our study demonstrates the vulnerability of high elevation, old-growth forests to increasing temperature and suggests the potential for refugia from drought in diverse, heterogeneous landscapes.


Canopy decline Shasta red fir (Abies magnifica var. shastensis) Topographic refugia Tree mortality LandTrendr Climate change 



This research was funded in part through the US Forest Service (Agreement #11-CS-11051000-023) and the Agricultural Research Institute (Agreement 15-06-007). The authors would like to thank Dr. Buddhika Madurapperuma and Dr. Paul Bourdeau for their useful comments on the manuscript. Much thanks to Connor Adams, Harrison Stevens, Angelo DeMario, Arthur Grupe, Stefani Brandt, Addison Gross, Maria Friedman, Jenell Jackson, John Mola, Sam Johnson, James Adam Taylor, and Elizabeth Wu for their assistance in collecting field data.

Supplementary material

10980_2019_907_MOESM1_ESM.docx (12 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 12 kb)
10980_2019_907_MOESM2_ESM.tif (115 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (TIFF 114 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesHumboldt State UniversityArcataUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  3. 3.USDA Forest ServiceRocky Mountain Research StationOgdenUSA
  4. 4.USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest RegionEurekaUSA
  5. 5.Department of Forestry and Wildland ResourcesHumboldt State UniversityArcataUSA

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