The EU-funded Plant-FATE project intends to determine the plant traits that confer drought-resistance. The aim is to accurately predict and identify species and geographical areas vulnerable to climate change.

The earth is projected to experience higher climate variability in future, with increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events such as droughts and wildfires. Drought is a severe threat to world’s forests, and incidents of drought-induced forest die-back are already being reported. The resistance of the world’s forests to drought will be key to maintaining crucial ecosystem services, such as sequestering carbon and maintaining biodiversity. To understand what plant traits are responsible for drought-resistance, Plant-FATE aims to push the envelope of contemporary eco-evolutionary dynamic vegetation modelling. Accounting for trade-offs in growth via acquisition of resources and resistance to drought-induced mortality, our model will allow plant traits to evolve under realistic drought regimes.

IIASA researchers will calibrate and test the model using data on plant traits and long-term demography available from two tropical forest sites – a wet site from Costa Rica, and a seasonally dry site from southern India. They will then parametrize the model at a wider scale, using available data on traits and environmental fluxes from sites across the globe in different biomes. Bringing together expertise from plant physiology, evolutionary dynamics, and high-performance computing, this approach will advance abilities to predict evolutionarily emergent plant strategies, plant productivity, and ecosystem services under current climatic conditions, and identify species and regions that are likely to be vulnerable to future changes in climate. Our models and methods could potentially be adopted for similar analyses in the agriculture sector. IIASA will provide the perfect platform for research training, and for a dialogue with policymakers and other stakeholders to prepare for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Project funder: European Commission

Publications

Joshi, J., Stocker, B.D., Hofhansl, F., Zhou, S., Dieckmann, U., & Prentice, I.C. (2020). Towards a unified theory of plant photosynthesis and hydraulics. BioRxiv 10.1101/2020.12.17.423132. (Submitted)

Joshi, J., Dieckmann, U., & Prentice, I.C. (2020). Towards a unified theory of plant photosynthesis and hydraulics. DOI:10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-9687. In: European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly 2020, 4-8 May 2020, Vienna, Austria.