BER launches Environmental System Science Program. Visit our new website under construction!

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Darcy’s Law Predicts Widespread Forest Mortality Under Climate Warming
Published: May 18, 2015
Posted: November 25, 2015

Drought and heat-induced tree mortality is accelerating in many forest biomes as a consequence of a warming climate, resulting in a threat to global forests unlike any in recorded history. Forests store the majority of terrestrial carbon, thus their loss may have significant and sustained impacts on the global carbon cycle. In a recent paper, researchers used a hydraulic corollary to Darcy’s law, a core principle of vascular plant physiology, to predict characteristics of plants that will survive and die during drought under warmer future climates. Plants that are tall with isohydric stomatal regulation, low hydraulic conductance, and high leaf area are most likely to die from future drought stress. Thus, tall trees of old-growth forests are at the greatest risk of loss, which has ominous implications for terrestrial carbon storage. This application of Darcy’s law indicates today’s forests generally should be replaced by shorter and more xeric plants, owing to future warmer droughts and associated wildfires and pest attacks. The Darcy’s corollary also provides a simple, robust framework for informing forest management interventions needed to promote the survival of current forests. Given the robustness of Darcy’s law for predictions of vascular plant function, the researchers conclude with high certainty that today’s forests will be subject to continued increases in mortality rates that result in substantial reorganization of their structure and carbon storage.

Reference: McDowell, N. G., and C. D. Allen. 2015. “Darcy's Law Predicts Widespread Forest Mortality Under Climate Warming,” Nature Climate Change 5, 669–72. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2641. (Reference link)

Contact: Jared DeForest, SC-23, (301) 903-3251, Daniel Stover, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0289
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Jan 11, 2022
No Honor Among Copper Thieves
Findings provide a novel means to manipulate methanotrophs for a variety of environmental and in [more...]

Dec 06, 2021
New Genome Editing Tools Can Edit Within Microbial Communities
Two new technologies allow scientists to edit specific species and genes within complex laborato [more...]

Oct 27, 2021
Fungal Recyclers: Fungi Reuse Fire-Altered Organic Matter
Degrading pyrogenic (fire-affected) organic matter is an important ecosystem function of fungi i [more...]

Oct 19, 2021
Microbes Offer a Glimpse into the Future of Climate Change
Scientists identify key features in microbes that predict how warming affects carbon dioxide emi [more...]

Aug 25, 2021
Assessing the Production Cost and Carbon Footprint of a Promising Aviation Biofuel
Biomass-derived DMCO has the potential to serve as a low-carbon, high-performance jet fuel blend [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)