Drought-Stressed Trees Face Race to Adapt

Updated Feb 15, 2013

“We thought that in the dry areas, plants would have adapted to survive more than ones growing in the wet, but we found they were all equally vulnerable. It was a big surprise.”

Scientists have known for some time that climate change and the impacts of longer droughts and higher temperatures could pose a problem for forests. But many thought it would only affect a minority of trees, perhaps just those in extremely arid regions.

However, new research is showing that a large majority of tree species around the world are operating on the brink of collapse. If the predicted pace of climate change continues, many may not be able to adapt in time and large numbers could die off.

The authors of the study, whose findings were published in the scientific journal Nature, looked at 226 different tree species from 81 sites around the world, covering the full range of climatic conditions, from Mediterranean-type arid to the tropical Amazon rainforest.

They found that 70 percent of the trees studied adapt closely to the local environment, whether arid or tropical, absorbing just enough water in order to survive, but leaving them highly vulnerable to minor shifts in rainfall and drought stress.

Read the full article here.

By Tom Levitt

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