Tree resilience to drought increases in the Tibetan Plateau

Forests in the Tibetan Plateau are thought to be vulnerable to climate extremes, yet they also tend to exhibit resilience contributing to the maintenance of ecosystem services in and beyond the plateau. So far the spatiotemporal pattern in tree resilience in the Tibetan Plateau remains largely unquantified and the influence of specific factors on the resilience is poorly understood. Here, we study ring‐width data from 849 trees at 28 sites in the Tibetan Plateau with the aim to quantify tree resilience and determine their diving forces. Three extreme drought events in years 1969, 1979, and 1995 are detected from metrological records. Regional tree resistance to the three extreme droughts shows a decreasing trend with the proportion of trees having high resistance ranging from 71.9%, 55.2%, to 39.7%. Regional tree recovery is increasing with the proportion of trees having high recovery ranging from 28.3%, 52.2%, to 64.2%. The area with high resistance is contracting and that of high recovery is expanding. The spatiotemporal resistance and recovery are associated with moisture availability and diurnal temperature range, respectively. In addition, they are both associated with forest internal factor represented by growth consistence among trees. We conclude that juniper trees in the Tibetan Plateau have increased resilience to extreme droughts in the study period. We highlight pervasive resilience in juniper trees. The results have implications for predicting tree resilience and identifying areas vulnerable to future climate extremes.

Contact: Ouya Fang

Project Dates: 2019

Keywords: climate change, extreme drought, recovery, resistance, spatial resilience, tree rings