Plant dieback under exceptional drought driven by elevation, not by plant traits, in Big Bend National Park, Texas USA

Eilzabeth Waring, Dylan Schwilk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

n 2011, Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA, experienced the most severe single year drought in its recorded history, resulting in significant plant mortality. We used this event to test how perennial plant response to drought varied across elevation, plant growth form and leaf traits. In October 2010 and October 2011, we measured plant cover by species at six evenly-spaced elevations ranging from Chihuahuan desert (666 m) to oak forest in the Chisos mountains (1,920 m). We asked the following questions: what was the relationship between elevation and stem dieback and did susceptibility to drought differ among functional groups or by leaf traits? In 2010, pre-drought, we measured leaf mass per area (LMA) on each species. In 2011, the percent of canopy dieback for each individual was visually estimated. Living canopy cover decreased significantly after the drought of 2011 and dieback decreased with elevation. There was no relationship between LMA and dieback within elevations. The negat
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2:e477
JournalPeerJ
StatePublished - Jul 15 2014

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