By using a variety of techniques, researchers have found how wooden plants can help to survive the effects of drought in areas with high water availability.
The research is based on the study of more than 20 species of tree-climbing plant in South Australia, the Western Australian region and the Northern Territory, and the effects on their ability to withstand drought conditions.
The researchers believe the trees’ high water uptake may help to support more water-hungry species, but the same effect may also lead to increased mortality of these plants, especially if they do not have access to the full water-storage capacity of the water-absorbing wood.
“Our study suggests that trees that have been subjected to drought stress, such as wooden plants, will experience increased mortality, particularly if they lack access to water storage,” Professor Stephen MacGowan from the Australian National University’s Department of Ecology, said.
“In areas with low water availability, such trees will be at increased risk of mortality.”
Professor MacGower said the findings were not conclusive, but that the results indicated that wood species should be treated with caution in drought situations.
“Woody plants, particularly those that are less well-suited to drought, are likely to have reduced survival,” he said.
Professor MacMansion said it was important that people understood the impacts of drought on these species, and how they could be used to reduce risk to these species in future.
“They may not survive as well in conditions of drought stress as they would if they were already protected from drought stress,” he explained.
“This is particularly true for smaller trees, which are less able to respond to drought and to recover from drought.”
The study, which will be published in the Journal of Vegetation Science, examined wood species that had been used in woodlands in South and Central Australia.
Researchers collected wood samples from a range of different types of trees and examined the effects that drought had on these trees.
The results showed that the types of wood used to make the wooden plant stood to have a greater effect on survival, with higher water uptake and lower mortality rates, than wood that had not been used for any reason at all.
“The data suggests that, compared to other species, trees that were subjected to severe drought stress have a reduced survival in areas of high water demand, but this effect does not seem to be uniform across wood types,” Professor MacMallan said.
Researchers also found that wood types that had survived drought stress had an increased ability to absorb water from the water table, suggesting they were more resilient than those that had suffered drought stress and lost the ability to store water.
The paper will be featured in the journal Science.
______________________________________________________This article was originally published on The Conversation.