Large-scale, abrupt ecosystem change in direct response to climate extremes is a critical but poorly documented phenomenon1. Yet, recent increases in climate-induced tree mortality raise concern that some forest ecosystems are on the brink of collapse across wide environmental gradients. Here we assessed climatic and productivity trends across the world’s five Mediterranean forest ecosystems from 2000 to 2021 and detected a large-scale, abrupt forest browning and productivity decline in Chile (>90% of the forest in <100 days), responding to a sustained, acute drought. The extreme dry and warm conditions in Chile, unprecedented in the recent history of all Mediterranean-type ecosystems, are akin to those projected to arise in the second half of the century4. Long-term recovery of this forest is uncertain given an ongoing decline in regional water balance. This dramatic plummet of forest productivity may be a spyglass to the future for other Mediterranean ecosystems.

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