A new study revealed that forest trees have learned to practice water conservation by pulling less water from the ground and absorbing more carbon dioxide instead to survive.
Trevor F. Keenan, lead author of the study and researcher from the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and his colleagues measured the water vapor and gas flow in and out of the forest. They found out that in two decades, the trees were slowly cutting its water consumption and slowly increasing its carbon dioxide.
The research team studied 21 records from different forest in the Northern Hemisphere which revealed the change in the pattern of the water vapor and gas flow. They also found out that trees which have broader leaves were more efficient in water use. The change happened to them in 10 years.
Several hypotheses were formed because of the analysis but the team all agreed to focus on the idea that the change may be a result of the increasing level of carbon dioxide in the air. Since the source is abundant, the trees did not need to work harder to get it. It chose to partly close its pores instead of leaving it fully open to breathe. When the pores are slightly close, there is less chance for water to escape thus it not needing to get more water from the ground. This seems to be the trees’ own way to feed only what it needs and adjust to the increasing level of gas.
Keenan admitted that this hypothesis needs further research to be established. Once it is proven correct, they will need to update all the computer models they have which forecast various climate change in the future.
So what is the significance of this research to humans? Well, if there is less water emitted by the trees, the amount of rainfall will also decrease. Soon, there will be insufficient water supply for the farms because of less rain. However, scientists are still investigating to list all the possible implications of the changes. On a positive note, the trees have a higher potential to survive droughts and warmer temperature.
The study was published in the July 10 issue of Nature.