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How trees manage water in arid environments

EurekAlert (3-Jan-2007)

How trees manage water in arid environments

EurekAlert (3-Jan-2007)

In semi-arid environments such as the southwestern United States, humidity is so low that water is scarce to begin with and hard to hold onto when there is a rare cloudburst. Rain that collects in puddles is quickly sucked up by evaporation into the dry air. Most of the rest runs off before it can soak into the ground. Maintaining an adequate supply of water is a constant challenge, and water management is a top priority. One way to make better use of scarce water resources would be to retain more of the water that falls during a heavy rain. To accomplish this, better understanding is needed about how water behaves in the environment.

Mountain forests are an important source of water for the rest of such semi-arid regions, and these forests provide relatively isolated conditions where scientists can get a clearer picture of what is happening to the water that so many people depend on. In a desert region, such forests are found only at the tops of mountains because only there does precipitation exceed evaporation enough for forest vegetation to survive.Understanding surface-atmosphere interactions is important to understanding a range of water resource phenomena including predictions about water supplies, Brown said. "This research seeks to characterize the explicit relationship between water availability and photosynthetic activities of the vegetation. This paper is the first step in that process, and it illustrates the seasonal characteristics of the forest vegetation-water relationship as observed during a three-year period during which there were extreme drought conditions in the semi-arid southwestern United States."

Story Source  : Indiana University

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