Increasing Atmospheric Humidity and CO2 Concentration Alleviate Forest Mortality Risk
National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Climate-induced forest mortality is being increasingly observed throughout the globe. Alarmingly, it is expected to exacerbate under climate change due to shifting precipitation patterns and rising air temperature. However, the impact of concomitant changes in atmospheric humidity and CO2 concentration through their influence on stomatal kinetics remains a subject of debate and inquiry. By using a dynamic soil–plant–atmosphere model, mortality risks associated with hydraulic failure and stomatal closure for 13 temperate and tropical forest biomes across the globe are analyzed. The mortality risk is evaluated in response to both individual and combined changes in precipitation amounts and their seasonal distribution, mean air temperature, specific humidity, and atmospheric CO2 concentration. Model results show that the risk is predicted to significantly increase due to changes in precipitation and air temperature regime for the period 2050–2069. However, this increase may largely get alleviated by concurrent increases in atmospheric specific humidity and CO2 concentration. The increase in mortality risk is expected to be higher for needleleaf forests than for broadleaf forests, as a result of disparity in hydraulic traits. These findings will facilitate decisions about intervention and management of different forest types under changing climate.