It’s clear that global warming is going to require some serious adaptation. While some life on this planet digs in its heels, other lifeforms– like trees — are already adapting to climate change. A recent study in the journal Nature shows that trees are responding to higher carbon dioxide levels by using water more efficiently. Although this is good news for some areas, it could possibly mean more drought in areas that rely on water transpired from other areas.

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Researchers from the US Forest Service, Harvard University and partners looked at the rate of water loss against carbon gain by studying trees in the United States and found that trees are using water more efficiently in the wake of climate change. The process of water transfer may seem like a fairly local issue, but it actually has broader consequences for global water cycles. Understanding how forests adjust as the climate changes is essential for maintaining healthy forests on this planet.

According to co-author Dave Hollinger, “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.” Scientists suggest that this adjusted water transfer could mean more drought-resistance and enhanced timber yields for the trees themselves, but as the trees hold onto water we could see higher air temperatures, less humidity and less precipitation, which could mean worsening drought in some areas. So while trees may have a better chance of surviving in the changing climate, the rest of us may need to do some adapting of our own.


images from Juan Manuel and Nicola