Pre- and post-drought conditions drive resilience of Pinus halepensis across its distribution range
Severe droughts limit tree growth and forest productivity worldwide, a phenomenon which is expected to aggravate over the next decades. However, how drought intensity and climatic conditions before and after drought events modulate tree growth resilience remains unclear, especially when considering the range-wide phenotypic variability of a tree species. We gathered 4632 Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis Mill.) tree-ring width series from 281 sites located in 11 countries across the Mediterranean basin, representing the entire geographic and bioclimatic range of the species. For each site and year of the period 1950–2020, we quantified tree-growth resilience and its two components, resistance and recovery, to account for the impact of drought and the capacity to recover from it. Relative drought intensity of each year was assessed using SPEI (Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index), a climatic water deficit index. Generalized additive mixed models were used to explore the non-linear relationships between resilience and its two components and drought intensity, preceding and following years climatic conditions. We found that P. halepensis radial growth was highly dependent on the SPEI from September of the previous year to June of the current year. Trees growing under more arid bioclimates showed higher inter-annual growth variability and were more sensitive to drought, resulting in an increased response magnitude to pre-, during and post-drought conditions. In contrast to our expectations, drought intensity only slightly affected resilience, which was rather negatively affected by favorable preceding conditions and improved by favorable following conditions. Resilience and its components are highly dependent on preceding and following years climatic conditions, which should always be taken into account when studying growth response to drought. With the observed and predicted increase in drought frequency, duration and intensity, favorable conditions following drought episodes may become rare, thus threatening the future acclimation capacity of P. halepensis in its current distribution.