Background: The phenomenon of tree dieback in forest ecosystems around the world, which is known to be associated with high temperatures that occur simultaneously with drought, has received much attention. Korea is experiencing a rapid rise in temperature relative to other regions. Particularly in the growth of evergreen conifers, temperature increases in winter and spring can have great influence. In recent years, there have been reports of group dieback of Pinus densiflora trees in Korea, and many studies are being conducted to identify the causes. However, research on techniques to diagnose and monitor drought stress in forest ecosystems on local and regional scales has been lacking.
Results: In this study, we developed and evaluated an index to identify drought and high-temperature vulnerability in Pinus densiflora forests. We found the Drought Stress Index (DSI) that we developed to be effective in generally assessing the drought-reactive physiology of trees. During 2001–2016, in Korea, we refined the index and produced DSI data from a 1 × 1-km unit grid spanning the entire country. We found that the DSI data correlated with the event data of Pinus densiflora mass dieback compiled in this study. ... mehrThe average DSI value at times of occurrence of Pinus densiflora group dieback was 0.6, which was notably higher than during times of nonoccurrence.
Conclusions: Our combination of the Standard Precipitation Index and growing degree days evolved and short- and long-term effects into a new index by which we found meaningful results using dieback event data. Topographical and biological factors and climate data should be considered to improve the DSI. This study serves as the first step in developing an even more robust index to monitor the vulnerability of forest ecosystems in Korea.