Tree growth decline as a response to projected climate change in the 21st century in Mediterranean mountain forests of Chile

Matskovsky, Vladimir; Alejandro Venegas-González; Garreaud, Rene; Roig, Fidel A.; Gutierrez, Alvaro G.; Munoz, Ariel A.; Le Quesne, Carlos; Klock-Barria, Karin; Canales, Camila

Keywords: dendroecology, tree rings, austrocedrus chilensis, climate change, Climatic projections, Nothofagus macrocarpa, South American Mediterranean forest, Vaganov–Shashkin-Lite model


Global Climate Models project that observed climate trends are likely to be preserved and the number of extreme events will be increasing during the rest of the 21st century, which may have a detrimental impact on forest ecosystems. These impacts may include forest decline and widespread dieback of the most vulnerable biomes, such as the Mediterranean Forest of Central Chile (MFCC). Nothofagus macrocarpa and Austrocedrus chilensis are two canopy-dominant, endangered tree species in the mountains of MFCC. Here, we project tree growth of these species based on tree-ring width chronologies, a simplified version of a process-based model, and climate change projections. We used the tree ring information derived from ~400 trees from 12 sites distributed across MFCC in combination with the simplified version of process-based Vaganov-Shashkin tree-growth model (VS-Lite) to forecast changes in tree growth for the next four decades. Tree growth projections were made on the basis of monthly values of temperature and precipitation from the output of 35 climate models based on two ensembles of CO2 emission scenarios of the IPCC AR5 (RCP 8.5: higher-emission scenario, and RCP 2.6: lower-emission scenario). For the MFCC region these scenarios result in temperature rise ranging between 0.5 °C and 2.0 °C, and a precipitation decrease between 5% and 20% by the year 2065, as related to historical conditions. Our results showed that the VS-Lite model is capable of reproducing tree growth decline during the recent extreme dry period, i.e. 2010–2018, which supports its use for tree growth projections in the MFCC region. According to the modeling results, we find that tree growth in both N. macrocarpa and A. chilensis forests distributed in the MFCC region will be adversely affected by future climate changes, mainly starting from the year 2035, under both scenarios. Our work provides evidence of the degree of vulnerability of Mediterranean mountain forests in central Chile according to current climate change projections. The projected decline in tree growth indicates serious risks in the dynamics and survival of these forests relatively soon, so alerts are given about this situation which may require to counteract the deleterious effects of global change on vegetation in this region.

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Volumen: 198
Editorial: Elsevier
Fecha de publicación: 2021