As climate change increases the odds of worsening drought in many parts of the world in the decades ahead, it is essential to gain new insights into how to preserve our natural environments. When it comes to forest ecosystems, drought-resistant conifers may hold some answers.
In a bid to help such areas affected by a changing climate, an international team of researchers has used computer models to determine how conifers are able to survive drought conditions. Using simulated pines and junipers, it seems that the key lies in how the tree roots access to water.
Studying these biological processes is essential because the roots are at the, well, the root of how some kinds of trees, like conifers, can survive severe droughts. But so far scientists haven’t been sure how this works. Does the tree rely on roots that have already tapped into a water supply or does it grow new ones when rain becomes scarce?
To answer this question, the research team turned to computer models that simulated how pines and junipers react to a five-year drought based on conditions. What they found was that when the trees already had their roots in water, they survived, but the ones that tried to grow roots to the water all died.
Aside from potentially explaining an old arboreal question, this insight may help to preserve coniferous forests under climate change pressure.