Environmental Science and Engineering Seminar
Droughts are increasing in many regions worldwide in number and frequency, with enormous impacts on plants in natural and crop ecosystems, and feedbacks on the global climate system. Yet, the mechanistic responses of plants to drought has remained unclear and controversial, impeding the prediction of individual species' responses. I will review recent advances in the impact of drought on plant cells and the leaf water transport system, and how these scale up to influencing plant productivity and mortality. In particular I will focus on the plant wilting point, a.k.a., turgor loss point, and how new research enables its rapid determination and has demonstrated its implications for plant drought responses across scales from leaf and forest gas exchange and productivity to species' distributions within forests and globally. Finally, I will describe ongoing research—and collaboration opportunities—to apply hydraulic physiology in predictions of ecosystem productivity and its response to climate change.