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National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

Forest ecosystems cover approximately 30% of Earth’s land surface. They provide numerous ecological, economic, social, and aesthetic benefits across many spatial scales. At local scales, forests structure communities and regulate ecosystem processes and services. At global scales, forests serve as strong and persistent carbon sinks and exert substantial influence on carbon and water cycling, as well as climate regulation. Forests store 45% of carbon found in terrestrial ecosystems and may sequester as much as 25% of annual anthropogenic carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

Yet the sensitivity of forests to drought, temperature, and insect infestations has become apparent in global patterns of widespread forest mortality and increased rates of tree mortality. Drought and heat stress on forests is expected to intensify in many regions with climate change, but current climate-vegetation models rarely incorporate mortality due to drought or infestation, or the interactions between insects and trees. Thus, widespread tree die-off is a major unknown in predicting the impacts of climate change and ecosystem feedbacks to climate change.

This working group draws together a broad group of forest ecologists, physiologists, entomologists, and vegetation modelers to synthesize the state of knowledge on the relative role of drought and insects in major tree mortality events, including the interactions between drought tree stress and insect/disease population dynamics and attack rates. In addition, the group will summarize the modeling approaches of drought- and insect-caused tree mortality for simulating the impacts of future climate change on these disturbances and identify datasets that can be used as benchmarking tests for model validation and intercomparisons.

Working Group Participants

Principal Investigator(s)

William R. L. Anderegg, Rosie A. Fisher, Jeffrey A. Hicke

Project Dates

Start: November 1, 2012

End: September 30, 2013



Craig D. Allen
Fort Collins Science Center, USGS
William R. L. Anderegg
Stanford University
Juliann E. Aukema
University of California, Santa Barbara
Matthew Ayres
Dartmouth College
Barbara Bentz
USDA Forest Service
Rosie A. Fisher
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Jeffrey A. Hicke
University of Idaho
Jeremy W. Lichstein
University of Florida
Alison K. Macalady
University of Arizona
Nathan G McDowell
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Paul Moorcroft
Harvard University
Yude Pan
USDA Forest Service
Ken Raffa
University of Wisconsin
Anna Sala
University of Montana
John D Shaw
USDA Forest Service
Nate Stephenson
US Geological Survey (USGS)
Christina Tague
University of California, Santa Barbara
Melanie Zeppel
Macquarie University


  1. Journal Article / 2015

    Tree mortality from drought, insects, and their interactions in a changing climate

  2. Journal Article / 2015

    Tree mortality predicted from drought-induced vascular damage

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