Trees responding to climate change: Being smart about water use

11 Jul

While the human species is struggling to collaborate on the best methods to combat climate change, trees are using their instincts to survive, a new study finds. 

Scientists with the U.S. Forest Service, Harvard University, The Ohio State University, Indiana University, and the Institute of Meteorology and Climate in Germany found that trees in the northern hemisphere have increased their water-use efficiency over the past two decades.

Water-use efficiency refers to the ratio of water loss to carbon gain during photosynthesis.

But, the increased efficiency has both positive and negative consequences.

“Our analysis suggests that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is having a direct and unexpectedly strong influence on ecosystem processes and biosphere-atmosphere interactions in temperate and boreal forests,” Dave Hollinger, a plant physiologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, and one of the co-authors of the study said.

Hollinger explained that the change can result in more timber for building as well as a greater supply of available freshwater which could reduce the harshness of droughts in some parts of the world. However, high water-use efficiency also results in warmer temperatures and increased dryness in the air. In addition, the recycling of precipitation is hindered, therefore causing more freshwater runoff which could  increase the risk of droughts in places that rely on the water transpired in other areas.

The study, “Increase in forest water-use efficiency as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise,” was published online today in the journal Nature.

One Response to “Trees responding to climate change: Being smart about water use”

  1. Talia Landman July 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    Reblogged this on T.E.L. It All and commented:
    Great post on climate change written by my friend Becca.

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