Escalating Thirst

Endangered Western Tree Habitats




A team of scientists at the University of Grenoble, in France, have isolated ultrasonic pops 100 times faster than what a human can hear in slivers of dead pine wood bathed in a hydrogel to simulate the conditions of a living tree. They exposed the gel to an artificially dry environment and listened for the noises that occurred as air bubbles built up, blocking water uptake, similar to what occurs to trees during drought. As leaves on a tree collect carbon dioxide, they open their pores, a process that leaves them particularly vulnerable to water loss.

Douglas firs and pine trees can repair this damage as frequently as every hour, says Katherine McCulloh, a plant ecophysiologist at Oregon State University. However, the bubbles are deadly for other species.

Today, the typical forest in the often thirsty American West contains an unnaturally high density of 112 to 172 trees per acre. Besides intercepting rain and snow that would otherwise enter the groundwater supply, such an overabundance threatens native species. “Deprived of [the effect of] low-intensity, naturally occurring fires, aspen, lupine, sequoia and fireweed can’t reproduce,” notes Jamie Workman, of the Environmental Defense Fund. “Deer lose edge habitat. Threatened owls and raptors can’t navigate through increasingly dense thickets.” Workman argues that thinning out small trees is the answer.


Contributing source: Utne.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Renewable Payoff

For a few hours last May, Germany’s renewable mix of energy generated so much power that customers were actually paid for using electricity.

Sealife Sanctuary

Greenpeace is working with the European Union and Germany to set aside an Antarctic sanctuary of almost three-quarters of a million square miles to protect whales, penguins and other wildlife.

Plumbing Progress

An innovative Australian project recycles discarded ocean plastic into 3-D printer filament, which is then used to make replacement plumbing parts in needy areas of the world.

Urban Trees

Tree cover works to reduce depression, improve productivity and lessen disease, yet four million city trees a year are being lost due to their low priority in municipal budgets.

Tree Tally

By digitalizing photographs and other museum records, scientists are closing in on the number of tree species left to be discovered in the Amazon rainforest.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags