UW researchers studying trees in the Rocky Mountain West have found trees use different coping strategies when faced with drought and warmer temperatures. The results may help scientists determine how forests will adapt to future climate change.
Biology graduate student Leander Anderegg and biology professor Jenneke Hille Ris Landers compared two common tree species that live in Colorado's La Plata Mountains. The study found that while ponderosa pine hunker down and implement conservation strategies in drought and hot weather, trembling aspen in the same area instead press on and try to keep growing even as water becomes scarse.
The findings begin to show how different species react differently in the face of climate change, which likely also means the decline in populations and ranges of the tree species will also happen differently. The researchers hope to discover what tree life stages are most vulnerable to drought and what policy changes might be able to mitigate some of the negative effects.