The Role of Climatic Anomalies and Soil Moisture in the Decline of Drought-Prone Forests

David Chaparro, Jordi Vayreda, Merce Vall-Llossera, Mireia Banque, Maria Piles, Adriano Camps, Jordi Martinez-Vilalta

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15 Citations (Scopus)


© 2008-2012 IEEE. Increased intensity and duration of droughts and high-temperature events have been associated with forest decline in many parts of the world, and these decline events are expected to become more common under climate change. There is, therefore, a need for monitoring and modeling of forest decline. We used a regional forest condition monitoring program (DEBOSCAT) to study the spatial distribution of decline events in 2012 in Catalonia (Northeastern Spain) and their relationship with climatic factors. In 2012, this dataset was collected after an extraordinarily dry summer, and allowed the study of decline events in eight dominant tree species. We fitted a logistic model to predict forest decline probability as a function of species, precipitation and temperature anomalies, solar radiation, and remotely sensed soil moisture data from the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity Mission (SMOS). Broadleaved species were more affected by decline events than conifers. The statistical model explained almost 40% of forest decline occurrence, wherein almost 50% of this variability was explained by species effect, with broadleaved trees being generally more sensitive to the studied factors than conifers. Climatically wetter areas and those more exposed to radiation were more likely to be affected, suggesting better adaptation of forests in dry areas. In general, more damaged forests were characterized by high-positive temperature anomalies, lower than average rainfall, and low soil moisture in summer 2012. The most vulnerable species was Fagus sylvatica, a Euro-Siberian species, contrasting with Pinus halepensis, a typically Mediterranean species, which showed low sensitivity to drought.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7522644
Pages (from-to)503-514
JournalIEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Climate change
  • drought
  • forest decline
  • forest monitoring
  • predictive modelling
  • regional scale
  • soil moisture
  • soil moisture and ocean salinity (SMOS)
  • temperature anomalies


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