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A belowground perspective on the drought sensitivity of forests: Towards improved understanding and simulation

Phillips, Richard P., Ibáñez, Inés, D’Orangeville, Loïc, Hanson, Paul J., Ryan, Michael G., McDowell, Nathan G.
Forest ecology and management 2016 v.380 pp. 309-320
drought, ecosystems, forest management, forests, models, prediction, rooting, roots, soil, trees, uncertainty, water stress
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.