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Tolerance to multiple climate stressors: A case study of Douglas-fir drought and cold hardiness

February 26, 2016
  1. Drought and freeze events are two of the most common forms of climate extremes which result in tree damage or death, and the frequency and intensity of both stressors may increase with climate change. Few studies have examined natural covariation in stress tolerance traits to cope with multiple stressors among wild plant populations.
  2. We assessed the capacity of coastal Douglas‐fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii), an ecologically and economically important species in the northwestern USA, to tolerate both drought and cold stress on 35 populations grown in common gardens. We used principal components analysis to combine drought and cold hardiness trait data into generalized stress hardiness traits to model geographic variation in hardiness as a function of climate across the Douglas‐fir range.
  3. Drought and cold hardiness converged among populations along winter temperature gradients and diverged along summer precipitation gradients. Populations originating in regions with cold winters had relatively high tolerance to both drought and cold stress, which is likely due to overlapping adaptations for coping with winter desiccation. Populations from regions with dry summers had increased drought hardiness but reduced cold hardiness, suggesting a trade‐off in tolerance mechanisms.
  4. Our findings highlight the necessity to look beyond bivariate trait–climate relationships and instead consider multiple traits and climate variables to effectively model and manage for the impacts of climate change on widespread species.
Publication Year 2016
Title Tolerance to multiple climate stressors: A case study of Douglas-fir drought and cold hardiness
DOI 10.1002/ece3.2007
Authors Sheel Bansal, Constance A Harrington, John Bradley St. Clair
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70168795
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center