In DepthEcology

Forest giants are the trees most at risk

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  06 Sep 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6457, pp. 962-963
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6457.962

eLetters is an online forum for ongoing peer review. Submission of eLetters are open to all. eLetters are not edited, proofread, or indexed.  Please read our Terms of Service before submitting your own eLetter.

Compose eLetter

Plain text

  • Plain text
    No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Author Information
First or given name, e.g. 'Peter'.
Your last, or family, name, e.g. 'MacMoody'.
Your email address, e.g. higgs-boson@gmail.com
Your role and/or occupation, e.g. 'Orthopedic Surgeon'.
Your organization or institution (if applicable), e.g. 'Royal Free Hospital'.
Statement of Competing Interests
CAPTCHA

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Vertical Tabs

  • Size matters, but not consistently
    • Nathan L. Stephenson, Research Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center
    • Other Contributors:
      • Adrian J. Das, Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center

    E. Pennisi (“Forest giants are the trees most at risk,” News, 6 September, p. 962) interprets presentations of three studies as suggesting that “for trees, size is not strength, and forest giants are disproportionately vulnerable.” However, this conclusion is not well supported.
    The observation that lightning is a major cause of large-tree mortality on Barro Colorado Island (BCI) is best interpreted in context: when all sources of mortality are considered, small, not large BCI trees are most vulnerable to mortality (1). We have no a priori reason to assume that relative size vulnerabilities must reverse if mortality rates increase in the future.
    Rather than reflecting universally high drought vulnerability of large trees, the remotely-sensed observation of increasing mortality with tree height in California’s Sierra Nevada (2) likely reflects changing species dominance with height. During the drought, sizes of trees suffering greatest mortality varied widely among species, a consequence of idiosyncratic host-tree selection by different bark beetle taxa (3). Pines were the only common species with mortality that increased with size, and pines also increased in relative dominance with canopy height (4, 5). More broadly, increasing tree mortality across western USA has affected trees of all sizes (6), and a recent multi-continent compilation showed no consistent size vulnerability to drought (3).
    Because large trees typically are both the most highl...

    Show More
    Competing Interests: None declared.

Stay Connected to Science