Climate change risks to global forest health: emergence of unexpected events of elevated tree mortality worldwide

Henrik Hartmann, Ana Bastos, Adrian J. Das, Adriane Esquivel-muelbert, William M. Hammond, Jordi Martínez-vilalta, Nate G. Mcdowell, Jennifer S. Powers, Thomas A.m. Pugh, Katinka X. Ruthrof, Craig D. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Recent observations of elevated tree mortality following climate extremes, like heat and drought, raise concerns about climate change risks to global forest health. We currently lack both sufficient data and understanding to identify whether these observations represent a global trend toward increasing tree mortality. Here, we document events of sudden and unexpected elevated tree mortality following heat and drought events in ecosystems that previously were considered tolerant or not at risk of exposure. These events underscore the fact that climate change may affect forests with unexpected force in the future. We use the events as examples to highlight current difficulties and challenges for realistically predicting such tree mortality events and the uncertainties about future forest condition. Advances in remote sensing technology and greater availably of high-resolution data, from both field assessments and satellites, are needed to improve both understanding and prediction of forest responses to future climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-702
Number of pages30
JournalAnnual Review of Plant Biology
Issue number1
Early online date1 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Mireia Banqué, Víctor Granda, Francisco Lloret and Jordi Vayreda provided useful suggestions for an earlier version of Section 3.T.A.M.P. and A.E.-M. acknowledge funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant 758873,TreeMort).N.G.M. acknowledges support from the Department of Energy's Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE)-Tropics and Coastal Observations, Mechanisms, and Predictions Across Systems and Scales (COMPASS) projects, and A.J.D. acknowledges support from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Ecosystems Mission Area (EMA). Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government. This study draws on and contributes to the International Tree Mortality Network, an initiative of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Task Force on monitoring global tree mortality trends and patterns.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.


  • Cell Biology
  • Plant Science
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • global forests
  • dynamic global vegetation models
  • forest assessment
  • mortality mechanisms
  • forecasting
  • remote sensing
  • hotter drought

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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