Changes in tree growth rates can affect tree mortality and forest feedbacks to the global carbon cycle. As air temperature increases, evaporative demand also increases, increasing effective drought in forest ecosystems. Using a spatially comprehensive network of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) chronologies from 122 locations that represent distinct climate environments in the western United States, we show that increased temperature decreases growth via vapor pressure deficit (VPD) across all latitudes. Using an ensemble of global circulation models, we project an increase in both the mean VPD associated with the lowest growth extremes and the probability of exceeding these VPD values. As temperature continues to increase in future decades, we can expect deficit-related stress to increase and consequently Douglas fir growth to decrease throughout its US range.


Restaino, C.M., Peterson, D.L., and J.S. Littell. 2016. Higher temperatures decrease tree growth in Douglas-fir forests of the western United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 113(34): 9557-9562. DOI: doi: 10.1073/pnas.1602384113.