Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Steve L. Voelker


Steve L. Voelker


Barbara J. Bentz


Simon Wang


Climate warming in recent decades has resulted in more frequent and severe drought events in the western United States. These changes are projected to continue, making it exceedingly important to understand how forests respond to severe drought stress, and how we can manage these forests to reduce mortality during future events. The 2012-2015 California drought is a recent example of a severe, multi-year drought that was coupled with an epidemic-scale outbreak of western pine beetle, killing nearly 90% of ponderosa pines in the central and southern Sierra Nevadas. In the first portion of this study, we compared pairs of surviving and dead ponderosa pines following this drought event to determine how the surviving trees were able to survive. We were also interested in how closely ponderosa pine tree-rings were recording ecosystem responses to this drought event. In the second portion of this study, we compared tree-ring growth rates and stable isotopes to data from an on-site flux tower to determine whether tree-rings were recording important information regarding ecosystem carbon and water fluxes during this severe drought event. Overall, we sought to better understand how the 2012- 2015 California drought event affected ponderosa pines to inform future management practices in forests of the western United States.