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PI-Submitted Research Highlights for
Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Program

A Belowground Perspective On Forest Drought Offers Improved Predictions for Managing Climate Change Impacts

Paul J. Hanson
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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11 Oct 2016

The Science
The paper highlights how a belowground perspective of drought can be used in models to reduce uncertainty in predicting the ecosystem consequences of droughts in forests.

The Impact
Key data on root distributions and soil water potential from prior DOE-funded precipitation manipulations on the Oak Ridge Reservation were used to illustrate mechanistic modeling needs. Challenges and opportunities associated with managing forests under conditions of increasing drought frequency and intensity are discussed, and the authors explain how a belowground perspective on drought may facilitate improved forest management.

Summary
Predicted increases in the frequency and intensity of droughts across the temperate biome have highlighted the need to examine the extent to which forests may differ in their sensitivity to water stress. At present, a rich body of literature exists on how leaf- and stem-level physiology influence tree drought responses; however, less is known regarding the dynamic interactions that occur belowground between roots and soil physical and biological factors. Hence, there is a need to better understand how and why processes occurring belowground influence forest sensitivity to drought. Here, we review what is known about tree species’ belowground strategies for dealing with drought, and how physical and biological characteristics of soils interact with rooting strategies to influence forest sensitivity to drought. Then, we highlight how a belowground perspective of drought can be used in models to reduce uncertainty in predicting the ecosystem consequences of droughts in forests. Finally, we describe the challenges and opportunities associated with managing forests under conditions of increasing drought frequency and intensity, and explain how a belowground perspective on drought may facilitate improved forest management.

Contacts (BER PM)
Daniel Stover and Jared DeForest
SC-23.1
Daniel.Stover@science.doe.gov; Jared.DeForest@science.doe.gov

(PI Contact)
Dr. Paul J. Hanson
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Climate Change Science Institute
Email: hansonpj@ornl.gov

Funding
DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the DOE under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.

Publications
Phillips RP, Ibanez I, D’Orangeville L, Hanson PJ, Ryan MG, McDowell N “A belowground perspective on the drought sensitivity of forests: towards improved understanding and simulation.” Forest Ecology & Management 380, 309-320 (2016) 10.1016/j.foreco.2016.08.043

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