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Individual Highlight

Drought and Forest Composition

Photo of Mapped distribution of drought tolerance based on forest composition of (A) dominant tolerance classes among species with suitable habitat, and (B) all species (mixed not used). DIT_x = drought intolerance class level, with 3 being the most intolerant; DT_x = drought tolerance level, with 3 being the most tolerant. USDA Forest ServiceMapped distribution of drought tolerance based on forest composition of (A) dominant tolerance classes among species with suitable habitat, and (B) all species (mixed not used). DIT_x = drought intolerance class level, with 3 being the most intolerant; DT_x = drought tolerance level, with 3 being the most tolerant. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Forest Service researchers used the cumulative drought severity index to examine the long-term influence of drought frequency and intensity during the periods of 1960-1986 and 1987-2013. Analysis of drought conditions and forest composition indicate that eastern U.S. forests are relatively balanced among drought-tolerant and -intolerant species.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Peters, Matthew P.  
Research Location : This research analyzed data across the eastern US and the conterminous US.
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 811

Summary

Drought conditions can influence forest composition directly by limiting water availability or indirectly by intensifying other stressors that affect establishment, growth, and mortality. Each tree species is uniquely adapted to coping with some level of drought, whether it is short or prolonged, low or high intensity. Exploring spatial patterns of forest composition in the eastern United States and how drought tolerance levels among species are dispersed aids in analyzing recent trends of drought conditions. Using habitat suitability models obtained from the Forest Service Climate Change Atlas, community assemblages of eastern U.S. tree species and drought tolerance characteristics assessed from literature, Forest Service scientists examined recent drought conditions in relation to the spatial distribution of species and their tolerance to drought. This research will provide land-owners and managers with information about the long-term monthly trends of drought conditions and indicate how sensitive current forest compositions are to drought.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Louis Iverson (NRS02)
  • Steve Matthews (Ohio State University)

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