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Climate extremes and predicted warming threaten Mediterranean Holocene firs forests refugia

Raúl Sánchez-Salguero, J. J. Camarero, Marco Carrer, Emilia Gutiérrez, Arben Q. Alla, Laia Andreu-Hayles, Andrea Hevia, Athanasios Koutavas, Elisabet Martínez-Sancho, Paola Nola, Andreas Papadopoulos, Edmond Pasho, Ervin Toromani, José A. Carreira, Juan C. Linares



Significance. Climate extremes are major drivers of long-term forest growth trends, but we still lack appropriate knowledge to anticipate their effects. Here, we apply a conceptual framework to assess the vulnerability of Circum-Mediterranean Abies refugia in response to climate warming, droughts, and heat waves. Using a tree-ring network and a process-based model, we assess the future vulnerability of Mediterranean Abies forests. Models anticipate abrupt growth reductions for the late 21st century when climatic conditions will be analogous to the most severe dry/heat spells causing forest die-off in the past decades. However, growth would increase in moist refugia. Circum-Mediterranean fir forests currently subjected to warm and dry conditions will be the most vulnerable according to the climate model predictions for the late 21st century.

Abstract. Warmer and drier climatic conditions are projected for the 21st century; however, the role played by extreme climatic events on forest vulnerability is still little understood. For example, more severe droughts and heat waves could threaten quaternary relict tree refugia such as Circum-Mediterranean fir forests (CMFF). Using tree-ring data and a process-based model, we characterized the major climate constraints of recent (1950–2010) CMFF growth to project their vulnerability to 21st-century climate. Simulations predict a 30% growth reduction in some fir species with the 2050s business-as-usual emission scenario, whereas growth would increase in moist refugia due to a longer and warmer growing season. Fir populations currently subjected to warm and dry conditions will be the most vulnerable in the late 21st century when climatic conditions will be analogous to the most severe dry/heat spells causing dieback in the late 20th century. Quantification of growth trends based on climate scenarios could allow defining vulnerability thresholds in tree populations. The presented predictions call for conservation strategies to safeguard relict tree populations and anticipate how many refugia could be threatened by 21st-century dry spells.


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 114, No. 47. (21 November 2017), pp. E10142-E10150, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1708109114 
Key: INRMM:14480186

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