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Plants and Drought in a Changing Climate

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Climate is changing in response to rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and it is commonly asserted that this will cause droughts to become more frequent and severe. However, different metrics of drought give diverging estimates of future impacts. I present a summary of the significant yet underappreciated influence that plant stomatal and growth responses to CO2 have on drought and highlight new insights into the impacts of drought on plants in a warmer world.

Recent Findings

Plants influence the water availability on land and thus reduce the duration and intensity of droughts under higher CO2 conditions. Plants are concurrently more vulnerable to mortality when droughts occur under hotter conditions.

Summary

The frequency and severity of drought in the future depends on the response of plants to a changing climate—ignoring plant responses leads to over-prediction of drought. Nonetheless, the impact of current frequencies of drought on plants could lead to higher mortality rates in the future as plants must withstand drought stress simultaneously with hotter temperatures.

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Correspondence to Abigail L. S. Swann.

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Swann, A.L.S. Plants and Drought in a Changing Climate. Curr Clim Change Rep 4, 192–201 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40641-018-0097-y

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Keywords

  • Drought
  • Global warming
  • Climate change
  • Hydrological impact
  • Forest mortality
  • Water use efficiency