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Riparian forest response to extreme drought is influenced by climatic context and canopy structure

Portela, Ana Paula, Gonçalves, João F., Durance, Isabelle ORCID:, Vieira, Cristiana and Honrado, João 2023. Riparian forest response to extreme drought is influenced by climatic context and canopy structure. Science of the Total Environment 881 , 163128. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.163128

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Droughts significantly impact forest ecosystems, reducing forest health and productivity, compromising ecosystem functioning, and nature-based solutions for climate change. The response and resilience of riparian forests to drought are poorly understood despite their key role in the functioning of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Here we investigate riparian forest drought responses and resilience to an extreme drought event at a regional scale. We also examine how drought event characteristics, average climate conditions, topography, soil, vegetation structure, and functional diversity shape the resilience of riparian forests to drought. We used a time series of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI) to calculate the resistance to and recovery after an extreme drought (2017–2018) in 49 sites across an Atlantic-Mediterranean climate gradient in North Portugal. We used generalized additive models and multi-model inference to understand which factors best explained drought responses. We found a trade-off between drought resistance and recovery (maximum r = −0.5) and contrasting strategies across the climatic gradient of the study area. Riparian forests in the Atlantic regions showed comparatively higher resistance, while Mediterranean forests recovered more. Canopy structure and climate context were the most relevant predictors of resistance and recovery. However, median NDVI and NDWI had not returned to pre-drought levels (RcNDWI mean = 1.21, RcNDVI mean = 1.01) three years after the event. Our study shows that riparian forests have contrasting drought response strategies and may be susceptible to extended legacy effects associated with extreme and/or recurring droughts, similarly to upland forests. This work highlights the drought vulnerability of riparian ecosystems and emphasises the need for further studies on long-term resilience to droughts.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0048-9697
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 May 2023
Date of Acceptance: 24 March 2023
Last Modified: 18 May 2023 19:25

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