Winter Water Stress in the Pacific Northwest

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Rand
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Winter Water Stress in the Pacific Northwest

Post by Rand » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:29 pm

Contrary to expectations, researchers have discovered that the conifers of the Pacific Northwest, some of the tallest trees in the world, face their greatest water stress during the region's eternally wet winters, not the dog days of August when weeks can pass without rain.

Due to freeze-thaw cycles in winter, water flow is disrupted when air bubbles form in the conductive xylem of the trees. Because of that, some of these tall conifers are seriously stressed for water when they are practically standing in a lake of it, scientists from Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service concluded in a recent study.

It's not "drought stress" in a traditional sense, the researchers said, but the end result is similar. Trees such as Douglas-fir actually do better dealing with water issues during summer when they simply close down their stomata, conserve water and reduce their photosynthesis and growth rate.

"Everyone thinks that summer is the most stressful season for these trees, but in terms of water, winter can be even more stressful," said Katherine McCulloh, a research assistant professor in the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society.
Screen shot 2011-08-01 at 1.27.58 PM.jpg
Screen shot 2011-08-01 at 1.27.58 PM.jpg (64.03 KiB) Viewed 820 times
http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Pacif ... t_999.html

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