Discovery] Imagine that you’re lost in a desert, or some other inhospitable environment. You’ve got two choices. One is to stay in place and conserve supplies and water, in order to make them last. The other is to push on tenaciously and hope that you find a way out of your predicament.
As it turns out, trees are like that too, when it comes to coping with
the hotter, drier environment created by climate change. In a new article in
the journal Global Change Biology, University of Washington researchers
studied two common tree species in southwestern Colorado, and found
that each had developed a different survival strategy.
“We really wanted to identify the entire suite of strategies that a
plant can use to grow in drier environments, as well as which of these
strategies each tree would employ,” UW biology professor Janneke Hille
Ris Lambers, who co-authored the article with graduate student Leander
Anderegg, said in a press release.
In the summer of 2014, the two researchers studied the slopes
of the La Plata Mountains in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest, where a
drought-ravaged ecosystem that’s become 1 degree Fahrenheit hotter over
the past 30 years is putting stress on trees.
One of the species under pressure is the ponderosa pine, whose habitat at the lower levels overlaps with that of the trembling aspens, a tree that predominates further up the mountainside. Read More