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Changes in tree resistance, recovery and resilience across three successive extreme droughts in the northeast Iberian Peninsula

  • Global change ecology – original research
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Understanding which variables affect forest resilience to extreme drought is key to predict future dynamics under ongoing climate change. In this study, we analyzed how tree resistance, recovery and resilience to drought have changed along three consecutive droughts and how they were affected by species, tree size, plot basal area (as a proxy for competition) and climate. We focused on the three most abundant pine species in the northeast Iberian Peninsula: Pinus halepensis, P. nigra and P. sylvestris during the three most extreme droughts recorded in the period 1951–2010 (occurred in 1986, 1994, and 2005–2006). We cored trees from permanent sample plots and used dendrochronological techniques to estimate resistance (ability to maintain growth level during drought), recovery (growth increase after drought) and resilience (capacity to recover pre-drought growth levels) in terms of tree stem basal area increment. Mixed-effects models were used to determine which tree- and plot-level variables were the main determinants of resistance, recovery and resilience, and to test for differences among the studied droughts. Larger trees were significantly less resistant and resilient. Plot basal area effects were only observed for resilience, with a negative impact only during the last drought. Resistance, recovery and resilience differed across the studied drought events, so that the studied populations became less resistant, less resilient and recovered worse during the last two droughts. This pattern suggests an increased vulnerability to drought after successive drought episodes.

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We thank Núria Serra for assistance with sample, processing in the laboratory and cross-dating of dendrochronological series. We also thank Teresa Rosas and Carles Batlles for their advice and help during the development of the project. This project has been funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness through grant CGL3013-46808-R. J. Martínez-Vilalta benefits from an ICREA Academia award.

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MM and JMV conceived and designed the study. XSM performed statistical analyses. XSM, JMV and MM interpreted the data. XSM wrote the manuscript. JMV and MM critically revised the manuscript.

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Correspondence to X. Serra-Maluquer.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Communicated by Jeremy Lichstein.

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Serra-Maluquer, X., Mencuccini, M. & Martínez-Vilalta, J. Changes in tree resistance, recovery and resilience across three successive extreme droughts in the northeast Iberian Peninsula. Oecologia 187, 343–354 (2018).

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