How a drought affects trees depends on what’s been holding them back

By Harrison Tasoff, University of California
May 22, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US West

Droughts can be good for trees; certain trees, that is.  Contrary to expectation, sometimes a record-breaking drought can increase tree growth. Why and where this happens is the subject of a new paper in Global Change Biology.  A team of scientists led by Joan Dudney at UC Santa Barbara examined the drought response of endangered whitebark pine over the past century. They found that in cold, harsh environments—often at high altitudes and latitudes—drought can actually benefit the trees by extending the growing season. This research provides insights into where the threats from extreme drought will be greatest, and how different species and ecosystems will respond to climate change. …The authors found a pronounced shift in growth during times of drought when the average maximum temperature was roughly 8.4° Celsius (47.1° Fahrenheit) between October and May. 

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