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Study Reveals the Big Climate Impact of the Way Drought Kills Trees

By Jane Braxton Little

Study Reveals the Big Climate Impact of the Way Drought Kills Trees New research into how drought kills trees has helped reveal a potentially huge climate consequence of an increase in dead and dying forests that one scientist cautioned could result in a “carbon death spiral.”

That dead tree in your back yard? You could say drought killed it.

Or you could say it died from hydraulic failure through partial or complete loss of xylem function from embolism that inhibits water transport through the vasculature, leading to tissue desiccation.

What that means ­– and why it matters to California and the rest of the world – are part of a new study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

“I’m not trying to scare people about climate change but paint a picture with consequences,” said Henry Adams, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor in the department of plant biology, ecology and evolution at Oklahoma State University.

With drought “popping up around the globe,” it’s important to understand how it kills trees, Adams told me. The ability to predict which forests are most vulnerable allows managers to focus attention on them before drought flips their role from storing carbon to emitting it.

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Friday, August 25, 2017