Study Finds Ecosystems Taking Longer to Recover from Drought

FALMOUTH – A new study from a Woods Hole Research Center scientist has found that ecosystems are taking progressively longer to recover from droughts as global temperatures continue to rise.

The paper, led by Dr. Christopher Schwalm and published in the journal “Nature,” also shows that incomplete drought recovery may become the new normal in some areas, which could lead to tree death and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers used remote sensing, field data, and Earth system modeling to measure recovery time following droughts in several areas of the world.

Schwalm says the most important finding of the study is that under normal emissions of greenhouse gases the time between drought events will likely become shorter than time needed for recovery.

Researchers found that more frequent and severe droughts are expected this century and that recovery times in the tropics and northern high latitudes were longer than in other regions.

Co-author Franco Biondi, a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno, says the research highlights the need to obtain more detailed data on how the vascular system of trees will cope with future droughts.

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