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Harvard Forest Research Project 2022

  • Title: Understanding the drought sensitivity and tolerance of northeastern forests
  • Principal investigator: Jessica Gersony (
  • Institution: Not Specified
  • Primary contact: Jessica Gersony (
  • Team members: Jack Hastings; Scott Ollinger; Andrew Ouimette
  • Abstract:

    Eastern U.S. forests provide an important economic and cultural resource and are responsible for sequestering 40% of the region’s carbon emissions. Sustainable forest management (SFM) practices are essential to optimize these roles and ensure that forests of the future will be resilient to projected changes in climate. To maximize the success of SFM practices, we need to understand how environmental conditions will change, and how trees and forests will respond to that change. In the eastern U.S., spring and summer droughts are predicted to become more frequent in the coming decades. How eastern forests will respond to drought, with regards to carbon sequestration and biomass production, is poorly understood due to critical knowledge gaps and inconsistent classifications of drought tolerance for the dominant species. Here, we will seek to begin to close these knowledge gaps by performing a site-wide survey of leaf turgor loss point (a trait that is indicative of a tree's drought response) to understand the variation in drought responses of trees inter and intra-specifically. We also propose to measure soil characteristics (e.g. rockiness, water potential, texture) to understand how soil dynamics influence variation in tree drought response.