Plant Ecological Responses to Extreme Climatic Events
- LAST REVIEWED: 12 August 2022
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 November 2016
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0165
- LAST REVIEWED: 12 August 2022
- LAST MODIFIED: 28 November 2016
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0165
The ecology of extreme climatic events is a relatively new focus within ecological research. Early ecological studies on extreme climate events were primarily limited to opportunistic approaches, where observations were made within the context of naturally occurring events, such as droughts. With the progression of climate change, there has been increasing recognition of climate extremes—such as droughts, deluges, and heat waves—as important drivers of contemporary and future ecosystem dynamics, leading to increases in manipulative experimental approaches. In this review we focus on the ecology of plant responses to climatic extremes. We focus on primary producers because they typically form the structural component of ecosystems and are the main pathway for energy capture. In order to provide a holistic literature resource, we address multiple scales and types of responses within each section, from the plant community level to the ecosystem level. What is clear from both observational and experimental studies is that ecological responses to extreme climate events are often highly variable, differing by both the type and magnitude of response, and further depend upon the scale (e.g., individual or community) considered. Observed variations in ecological responses are likely to result from differential attributes of systems (e.g., biodiversity, species’ traits, or biogeochemistry) and climatic contexts (e.g., magnitude and duration of the event, historical climatic variability). Nevertheless, climate extremes often produce large and prolonged effects at the species, community, and ecosystem levels. Observed variation in previous studies highlights both the dynamic nature of ecological responses to extreme climate events and the need for standardized research approaches to effectively compare responses across ecosystems and ecological scales.
The selected articles are meant to offer both breadth and specific examples of climatic trends, modeling approaches, and plant ecological responses to a broad range of climatic extremes. Easterling, et al. 2000 and Stocker, et al. 2013 are key references for a summary of 20th-century trends in climatic extremes and forecasted changes for the 21st century. Christensen and Christensen 2003 and Rahmstorf and Coumou 2011 utilize models to demonstrate the increased likelihood of extreme events amid atmospheric warming. Comprehensive overviews specific to ecological responses to extreme climatic events are provided in Jentsch and Beierkuhnlein 2008 and Smith 2011. Reichstein, et al. 2013 further extends the dynamics of ecological responses into ecosystem biogeochemistry and the global carbon cycle. Finally, detailed overviews concerning plant responses to climatic extremes are provided in Niu, et al. 2014 and Reyer, et al. 2013.
Christensen, Jens H., and Ole B. Christensen. 2003. Climate modeling: Severe summertime flooding in Europe. Nature 421:805–806.
Utilizes a high-resolution model to demonstrate that, despite predicted trends toward more arid conditions, atmospheric warming will increase the likelihood of extreme precipitation events (i.e., those that exceed the 95th percentile). This result suggests that despite decreased average precipitation, periodic flooding events may become a more common driver of terrestrial ecosystem dynamics.
Easterling, D. R., G. A. Meehl, C. Parmesan, S. A. Changnon, T. R. Karl, and L. O. Mearns. 2000. Climate extremes: Observations, modeling, and impacts. Science 289:2068–2074.
This paper presents a summary of 20th-century global trends in the occurrence of temperature and precipitation extremes, as well as tropical storms. Climate model performance and the impacts of climate extremes on societal and ecological systems are also discussed.
Jentsch, A., and C. Beierkuhnlein. 2008. Research frontiers in climate change: Effects of extreme meteorological events on ecosystems. Comptes Rendus Geoscience 340:621–628.
This paper summarizes past observations and future projections of meteorological extremes and their societal and ecological consequences. The paper further identifies specific knowledge gaps in ecosystem responses to meteorological extremes, and the associated research challenges in addressing them.
Jentsch, A., J. Kreyling, and C. Beierkuhnlein. 2007. A new generation of climate-change experiments: Events, not trends. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5.7: 365–374.
This article discusses the emerging ecological importance of climate extremes and the utility of controlled experiments that simulate extreme climate events. The article further suggests future research needs utilizing manipulative experiments that simulate climate extremes.
Niu, S., Y. Luo, D. Li, et al. 2014. Plant growth and mortality under climatic extremes: An overview. Environmental and Experimental Botany 98:13–19.
This paper provides a comprehensive overview of plant-specific responses to multiple types of extreme climate events. It also further discusses the biochemical, physiological, and morphological mechanisms underlying plant responses, and contains many useful references.
Rahmstorf, Stefan, and Dim Coumou. 2011. Increase of extreme events in a warming world. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108:17905–17909.
This study utilizes a statistical model to demonstrate that current anthropogenic-driven warming trends contribute substantially to an increased likelihood of temperature extremes. The authors further test their model against empirical data utilizing the 2010 Moscow heat wave and long-term climate data and find strong support for their model.
Reichstein, M., M. Bahn, P. Ciais, et al. 2013. Climate extremes and the carbon cycle. Nature 500:287–295.
This article provides an overview of the mechanisms and uncertainties related to extreme climate event effects on terrestrial ecosystem carbon cycling, with an emphasis on ecosystem-level and biogeochemical impacts.
Reyer, Christopher P. O., Sebastian Leuzinger, Anja Rammig, et al. 2013. A plant’s perspective of extremes: Terrestrial plant responses to changing climatic variability. Global Change Biology 19:75–89.
This paper provides a good review on the relative sensitivities of different plant processes to climatic variability and extremity. The paper synthesizes observational, experimental, and modeling approaches and offers recommendations for future research. Contains many useful references.
Smith, M. D. 2011. The ecological role of climate extremes: Current understanding and future prospects. In Special issue: Ecological consequences of climate extremes. Edited by M. D. Smith. Journal of Ecology 99:651–655.
This paper addresses the importance of shifting climatic baselines in understanding the ecological impacts of climate extremes and the need for new approaches to study the impacts of climate extremes on ecosystems.
Stocker, T. F., D. Qin, G. K. Plattner, et al., eds. 2013.Climate change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
This report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presents a detailed overview on past and current climate change trends and future trajectories of anthropogenic climate change, with particular attention to extreme events.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Accounting for Ecological Capital
- Adaptive Radiation
- Allocation of Reproductive Resources in Plants
- Animals, Functional Morphology of
- Animals, Reproductive Allocation in
- Animals, Thermoregulation in
- Antarctic Environments and Ecology
- Applied Ecology
- Aquatic Conservation
- Aquatic Nutrient Cycling
- Archaea, Ecology of
- Assembly Models
- Bacterial Diversity in Freshwater
- Benthic Ecology
- Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning
- Biodiversity, Dimensionality of
- Biodiversity Patterns in Agricultural Systms
- Biological Chaos and Complex Dynamics
- Biome, Alpine
- Biome, Boreal
- Biome, Desert
- Biome, Grassland
- Biome, Savanna
- Biome, Tundra
- Biomes, African
- Biomes, East Asian
- Biomes, Mountain
- Biomes, North American
- Biomes, South Asian
- Braun, E. Lucy
- Bryophyte Ecology
- Butterfly Ecology
- Carson, Rachel
- Chemical Ecology
- Classification Analysis
- Coastal Dune Habitats
- Communicating Ecology
- Communities and Ecosystems, Indirect Effects in
- Communities, Top-Down and Bottom-Up Regulation of
- Community Concept, The
- Community Ecology
- Community Genetics
- Community Phenology
- Competition and Coexistence in Animal Communities
- Competition in Plant Communities
- Complexity Theory
- Conservation Biology
- Conservation Genetics
- Coral Reefs
- Darwin, Charles
- Dead Wood in Forest Ecosystems
- De-Glaciation, Ecology of
- Disease Ecology
- Drought as a Disturbance in Forests
- Early Explorers, The
- Earth’s Climate, The
- Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics
- Ecological Dynamics in Fragmented Landscapes
- Ecological Education
- Ecological Engineering
- Ecological Forecasting
- Ecological Informatics
- Ecological Relevance of Speciation
- Ecology, Introductory Sources in
- Ecology, Microbial (Community)
- Ecology of Emerging Zoonotic Viruses
- Ecology of the Atlantic Forest
- Ecology, Stochastic Processes in
- Ecosystem Ecology
- Ecosystem Engineers
- Ecosystem Multifunctionality
- Ecosystem Services
- Ecosystem Services, Conservation of
- Elton, Charles
- Endophytes, Fungal
- Energy Flow
- Environmental Anthropology
- Environmental Justice
- Environments, Extreme
- Ethics, Ecological
- European Natural History Tradition
- Evolutionarily Stable Strategies
- Facilitation and the Organization of Communities
- Fern and Lycophyte Ecology
- Fire Ecology
- Food Webs
- Foraging Behavior, Implications of
- Foraging, Optimal
- Forests, Temperate Coniferous
- Forests, Temperate Deciduous
- Freshwater Invertebrate Ecology
- Genetic Considerations in Plant Ecological Restoration
- Genomics, Ecological
- Geographic Range
- Gleason, Henry
- Grazer Ecology
- Greig-Smith, Peter
- Gymnosperm Ecology
- Habitat Selection
- Harper, John L.
- Harvesting Alternative Water Resources (US West)
- Heavy Metal Tolerance
- Himalaya, Ecology of the
- Host-Parasitoid Interactions
- Human Ecology
- Human Ecology of the Andes
- Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence
- Hutchinson, G. Evelyn
- Indigenous Ecologies
- Industrial Ecology
- Insect Ecology, Terrestrial
- Invasive Species
- Island Biogeography Theory
- Island Biology
- Keystone Species
- Kin Selection
- Landscape Dynamics
- Landscape Ecology
- Laws, Ecological
- Legume-Rhizobium Symbiosis, The
- Leopold, Aldo
- Lichen Ecology
- Life History
- Literature, Ecology and
- MacArthur, Robert H.
- Mangrove Zone Ecology
- Marine Fisheries Management
- Mass Effects
- Mathematical Ecology
- Mating Systems
- Maximum Sustainable Yield
- Metabolic Scaling Theory
- Metacommunity Dynamics
- Metapopulations and Spatial Population Processes
- Microclimate Ecology
- Multiple Stable States and Catastrophic Shifts in Ecosyste...
- Mutualisms and Symbioses
- Mycorrhizal Ecology
- Natural History Tradition, The
- Networks, Ecological
- Niche Versus Neutral Models of Community Organization
- Nutrient Foraging in Plants
- Ocean Sprawl
- Odum, Eugene and Howard
- Old Fields
- Ordination Analysis
- Organic Agriculture, Ecology of
- Parental Care, Evolution of
- Pastures and Pastoralism
- Patch Dynamics
- Phenotypic Plasticity
- Phenotypic Selection
- Philosophy, Ecological
- Phylogenetics and Comparative Methods
- Physiological Ecology of Nutrient Acquisition in Animals
- Physiological Ecology of Photosynthesis
- Physiological Ecology of Water Balance in Terrestrial Anim...
- Physiological Ecology of Water Balance in Terrestrial Plan...
- Plant Blindness
- Plant Disease Epidemiology
- Plant Ecological Responses to Extreme Climatic Events
- Plant-Insect Interactions
- Polar Regions
- Pollination Ecology
- Population Dynamics, Density-Dependence and Single-Species
- Population Dynamics, Methods in
- Population Ecology, Animal
- Population Ecology, Plant
- Population Fluctuations and Cycles
- Population Genetics
- Population Viability Analysis
- Populations and Communities, Dynamics of Age- and Stage-St...
- Predation and Community Organization
- Predator-Prey Interactions
- Reductionism Versus Holism
- Religion and Ecology
- Remote Sensing
- Restoration Ecology
- Ricketts, Edward Flanders Robb
- Secondary Production
- Seed Ecology
- Serpentine Soils
- Shelford, Victor
- Simulation Modeling
- Soil Biogeochemistry
- Soil Ecology
- Spatial Pattern Analysis
- Spatial Patterns of Species Biodiversity in Terrestrial En...
- Spatial Scale and Biodiversity
- Species Distribution Modeling
- Species Extinctions
- Species Responses to Climate Change
- Species-Area Relationships
- Stability and Ecosystem Resilience, A Below-Ground Perspec...
- Stoichiometry, Ecological
- Stream Ecology
- Sustainable Development
- Systematic Conservation Planning
- Systems Ecology
- Tansley, Sir Arthur
- Terrestrial Nitrogen Cycle
- Terrestrial Resource Limitation
- Theory and Practice of Biological Control
- Thermal Ecology of Animals
- Tragedy of the Commons
- Transient Dynamics
- Trophic Levels
- Tropical Humid Forest Biome
- Urban Ecology
- Vegetation Classification
- Vegetation Mapping
- Vicariance Biogeography
- Weed Ecology
- Wetland Ecology
- Whittaker, Robert H.
- Wildlife Ecology