Drought-caused tree dieback is an issue around the world as climates change and many areas become dryer and hotter. A drought from 1998-2004 resulted in a significant tree dieback event in many of the wooded areas in portions of the Jemez Mountains and the adjacent Pajarito Plateau in northern New Mexico. The objectives of this study were to evaluate and quantify the differences in tree mortality before and after a recent drought in the ponderosa pine and spruce-fir ecosystems, and to assess the effect of mechanical thinning on ponderosa pine mortality. Significant increases in mortality were observed in the unthinned ponderosa pine ecosystem. Mortality varied significantly between species and within size classes. Mechanical thinning of ponderosa pines reduced overstory mortality to non-significant levels. A lack of rainfall, snowfall, and increases in daily minimum temperature contributed most to the mortality. Adaptive management, including the use of thinning activities, appear to moderate the impact of climate change on ponderosa pine forests in this region, increasing the long-term health of the ecosystem. The impact of climate change on the spruce-fir ecosystems may accelerate successional changes.
Oswald, B.P., S.C. Dugan, R.G. Balice, D.R. Unger. 2016. Overstory Tree Mortality in the Ponderosa Pine and Spruce-Fir Ecosystems Following a Drought in Northern New Mexico. Forests. www.mdpi.com/1999-4907/7/10/225