Rising aridity, mostly driven by higher temperatures and reduced precipitation, will likely undermine the health status of forest ecosystems. Experiments and observations point to the likelihood that if climate changes proceed at its current rate, the resilience of many forests will be threated by altering their structure and functions and reducing their capability to provide ecosystem services. Such increasing drought conditions, coupled to other biotic and abiotic drivers, are synergistically leading to responses in tree morphology, physiology, growth, reproduction, and forest mortality in different areas of the Mediterranean Basin. However, our understanding of vegetation dynamics in response to climate changes is still lacking, as a robust comprehension relies on the need to obtain insights at multiple temporal and spatial scales. In this context, we sought to forecasting vegetation response to climate stressors, particularly during dieback episodes when tree vulnerability is exacerbated. The first section of this study focused on tree and shrub populations exhibiting recent dieback phenomena in Italy (Quercus pubescens, Quercus frainetto) and Spain (Pinus sylvestris, Juniperus phoenicea). The general aim was to investigate how remotely sensed measures of vegetation activity and radial growth (BAI, basal area increment) responded to climate extreme events. To this purpose, we compared trees and nearby stands showing different vigor, i.e., dieback vs non-dieback, assessed as growth decline, elevated canopy defoliation and rising tree mortality rate. To disentangle growth and NDVI responses to drought, we accounted for two components of drought, namely elevated vapor pressure deficit (VPD) and low soil moisture. As a whole, the response of the investigated species to VPD increase was characterized by growth reduction. In Scots pine, high VPD was linked to a loss of growth in declining individuals which did not respond to changes in soil moisture. Oaks responded mostly to soil moisture, whereas the juniper was the most negatively affected by higher VPD. Indeed, the different hydraulic strategies (anisohydric vs. isohydric species) could partially explain the contrasting growth responses to drought proxies. We also found that dieback stands exhibited lower NDVI values than non-dieback stands. In most cases, NDVI and BAI was positively correlated and such relation likely relied on specific time windows. In the second part of the thesis, the phenological behavior of Mediterranean oak forest stands (Quercus cerris, Quercus pubescens, and Quercus frainetto), showing evident decline symptoms, are investigated by using a satellite-based approach. We explored how a phenological (PPI, Plant Phenology Index) index would be capable to reflect the seasonal vegetative dynamics of forests affected by dieback phenomena. We found that dieback forest stands - characterized by a higher ratio of crown-defoliated trees - showed distinct phenological performance as compared to non-dieback stands. In detail, our results revealed that dieback stands lengthened the growing season by delaying autumn leaf senescence. Nevertheless, both seasonal amplitude and productivity were found to have higher values for non-dieback stands as compared to dieback stands. Furthermore, it was highlighted that non-dieback stands experienced either greening up or senescence periods more rapidly than dieback ones. Overall, our framework demonstrated that the effects of climate extremes on vegetation can be detected either in terms of canopy greenness or radial growth reductions, thus hinting at the opportunity to both employ remotely sensed data as a stand-level indicator of vegetation stress and to scaling up informations from tree to stand levels by using the maximum growing season NDVI and tree-ring width data taken at the individual scales. Our findings also highlighted how patterns of vegetation response to climate extremes may depend on both the water use strategies of trees and shrubs and site-specific climatic conditions. Hence, coupling proxies of forest productivity (NDVI, BAI) may be employed for retrospective modeling of the impact of drought stress on forest productivity and tree growth, enhancing our knowledge and forecast of drought-induced dieback phenomena in woody plant communities. Furthermore, the second part of the work revealed the phenological behaviour of Mediterranean forest populations showing clear symptoms of decline. We speculated that the lengthened growing season may be related to the dieback trees' effort to compensate for the reduction in whole-plant photosynthesis, associated to canopy decline. Increased photosynthesis during the season under higher temperatures and increased light availability, due to global warming, provided a possible explanation for the greater seasonal amplitude and productivity of healthier stands. Our findings may provide new insights on phenological response to climate change in semi-arid regions, highlighting how trees, showing clear symptoms of decline, may keep their vital activities by changing their phenological performance. What described above leads to a crucial question concerning the potential implications of observed phenological shifts on the global carbon and water balance of terrestrial ecosystems under future climate change. Hence, in the coming years, this study could provide a more comprehensive overview on climate-vegetation interactions, mainly in the Mediterranean Basin, where intensified global warming and aridification trends are expected. Nonetheless, more investigations on the interactive effects among different environmental factors, are needed to improve our understanding of the underlying mechanisms affecting vegetation response.

Integrated approach for monitoring the vulnerability of Mediterranean forests affected by drought-induced dieback / Castellaneta, Maria. - (2022 May 05).

Integrated approach for monitoring the vulnerability of Mediterranean forests affected by drought-induced dieback

CASTELLANETA, MARIA
2022-05-05

Abstract

Rising aridity, mostly driven by higher temperatures and reduced precipitation, will likely undermine the health status of forest ecosystems. Experiments and observations point to the likelihood that if climate changes proceed at its current rate, the resilience of many forests will be threated by altering their structure and functions and reducing their capability to provide ecosystem services. Such increasing drought conditions, coupled to other biotic and abiotic drivers, are synergistically leading to responses in tree morphology, physiology, growth, reproduction, and forest mortality in different areas of the Mediterranean Basin. However, our understanding of vegetation dynamics in response to climate changes is still lacking, as a robust comprehension relies on the need to obtain insights at multiple temporal and spatial scales. In this context, we sought to forecasting vegetation response to climate stressors, particularly during dieback episodes when tree vulnerability is exacerbated. The first section of this study focused on tree and shrub populations exhibiting recent dieback phenomena in Italy (Quercus pubescens, Quercus frainetto) and Spain (Pinus sylvestris, Juniperus phoenicea). The general aim was to investigate how remotely sensed measures of vegetation activity and radial growth (BAI, basal area increment) responded to climate extreme events. To this purpose, we compared trees and nearby stands showing different vigor, i.e., dieback vs non-dieback, assessed as growth decline, elevated canopy defoliation and rising tree mortality rate. To disentangle growth and NDVI responses to drought, we accounted for two components of drought, namely elevated vapor pressure deficit (VPD) and low soil moisture. As a whole, the response of the investigated species to VPD increase was characterized by growth reduction. In Scots pine, high VPD was linked to a loss of growth in declining individuals which did not respond to changes in soil moisture. Oaks responded mostly to soil moisture, whereas the juniper was the most negatively affected by higher VPD. Indeed, the different hydraulic strategies (anisohydric vs. isohydric species) could partially explain the contrasting growth responses to drought proxies. We also found that dieback stands exhibited lower NDVI values than non-dieback stands. In most cases, NDVI and BAI was positively correlated and such relation likely relied on specific time windows. In the second part of the thesis, the phenological behavior of Mediterranean oak forest stands (Quercus cerris, Quercus pubescens, and Quercus frainetto), showing evident decline symptoms, are investigated by using a satellite-based approach. We explored how a phenological (PPI, Plant Phenology Index) index would be capable to reflect the seasonal vegetative dynamics of forests affected by dieback phenomena. We found that dieback forest stands - characterized by a higher ratio of crown-defoliated trees - showed distinct phenological performance as compared to non-dieback stands. In detail, our results revealed that dieback stands lengthened the growing season by delaying autumn leaf senescence. Nevertheless, both seasonal amplitude and productivity were found to have higher values for non-dieback stands as compared to dieback stands. Furthermore, it was highlighted that non-dieback stands experienced either greening up or senescence periods more rapidly than dieback ones. Overall, our framework demonstrated that the effects of climate extremes on vegetation can be detected either in terms of canopy greenness or radial growth reductions, thus hinting at the opportunity to both employ remotely sensed data as a stand-level indicator of vegetation stress and to scaling up informations from tree to stand levels by using the maximum growing season NDVI and tree-ring width data taken at the individual scales. Our findings also highlighted how patterns of vegetation response to climate extremes may depend on both the water use strategies of trees and shrubs and site-specific climatic conditions. Hence, coupling proxies of forest productivity (NDVI, BAI) may be employed for retrospective modeling of the impact of drought stress on forest productivity and tree growth, enhancing our knowledge and forecast of drought-induced dieback phenomena in woody plant communities. Furthermore, the second part of the work revealed the phenological behaviour of Mediterranean forest populations showing clear symptoms of decline. We speculated that the lengthened growing season may be related to the dieback trees' effort to compensate for the reduction in whole-plant photosynthesis, associated to canopy decline. Increased photosynthesis during the season under higher temperatures and increased light availability, due to global warming, provided a possible explanation for the greater seasonal amplitude and productivity of healthier stands. Our findings may provide new insights on phenological response to climate change in semi-arid regions, highlighting how trees, showing clear symptoms of decline, may keep their vital activities by changing their phenological performance. What described above leads to a crucial question concerning the potential implications of observed phenological shifts on the global carbon and water balance of terrestrial ecosystems under future climate change. Hence, in the coming years, this study could provide a more comprehensive overview on climate-vegetation interactions, mainly in the Mediterranean Basin, where intensified global warming and aridification trends are expected. Nonetheless, more investigations on the interactive effects among different environmental factors, are needed to improve our understanding of the underlying mechanisms affecting vegetation response.
climate change, forest dieback, Mediterranean area, radial growth, satellite-based vegetation indices
Integrated approach for monitoring the vulnerability of Mediterranean forests affected by drought-induced dieback / Castellaneta, Maria. - (2022 May 05).
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11563/156227
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