Relative water content consistently predicts drought mortality risk in seedling populations with different morphology, physiology and times to death

Gerard Sapes, Anna Sala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Predicted increases in forest drought mortality highlight the need for predictors of incipient drought-induced mortality (DIM) risk that enable proactive large-scale management. Such predictors should be consistent across plants with varying morphology and physiology. Because of their integrative nature, indicators of water status are promising candidates for real-time monitoring of DIM, particularly if they standardize morphological differences among plants. We assessed the extent to which differences in morphology and physiology between Pinus ponderosa populations influence time to mortality and the predictive power of key indicators of DIM risk. Time to incipient mortality differed between populations but occurred at the same relative water content (RWC) and water potential (WP). RWC and WP were accurate predictors of drought mortality risk. These results highlight that variables related to water status capture critical thresholds during DIM and the associated dehydration processes. Both WP and RWC are promising candidates for large-scale assessments of DIM risk. RWC is of special interest because it allows comparisons across different morphologies and can be remotely sensed. Our results offer promise for real-time landscape-level monitoring of DIM and its global impacts in the near term.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3322-3335
Number of pages14
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Volume44
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Keywords

  • hydraulic failure
  • intraspecific variation
  • non-structural carbohydrates
  • water potential

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