Plants and Climate

Effects of drought on tree performance

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Science  13 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6321, pp. 144
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6321.144-a

Drought limits pinyon pine growth, whereas high temperatures have little effect.

CREDIT: LARRY GEDDIS/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Global climate change has many components, with temperature and precipitation dominating. Grossiord et al. experimentally compared the effects of temperature increase and precipitation reduction on pinyon pine trees in a warm semiarid site in New Mexico, USA. The 3-year experiment in open-topped chambers revealed that temperature increase on its own had little effect on tree physiology and morphology, whereas drought had pronounced effects: Low precipitation led to reductions in photosynthesis and needle growth, among other plant traits that the authors examined. In addition, there were no discernible synergistic effects of drought and increased temperature. It appears that reduced precipitation will be the driving force in any ecological change that results from changed plant performance.

J. Ecol. 105, 163 (2017).

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