Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Carbohydrates boost trees' drought survival chances

Mark Kinver in BBC News: Higher levels of compounds called non-structural carbohydrates (NSCs) boost tropical trees' chances of surviving droughts, a study has suggested. An international team of scientists found that species with elevated NSC levels survived up to 17 days longer.

The discovery could help restore forests devastated by logging and increase their resilience to future climate change, they added. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"The diversity of tropical trees is staggering but explaining why this diversity arose and how it is maintained is a puzzle," explained co-author Andrew Hector from the University of Oxford's Department of Plant Sciences.

"We've shown that different species appear to have evolved different levels of drought-busting compounds, which probably play an important role in defining their different ecological niches and which means diverse mixtures of species may be an important insurance against the increasing droughts predicted by climate change models."

Prof Hector told BBC News that previous studies on plant physiology had indicated that NSCs played a role in a tree's drought resilience abilities. The researchers say the findings could help identify species that are vulnerable in drought conditions "Why this isthe case in not very well known. We set out to test that, but it was a tricky thing to do," he said....

A 1920 painting of a tropical forest

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