U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Tree Hydraulic Acclimation Partially Mitigates Effects of Warming and Drought
Published: June 20, 2017
Posted: November 21, 2017

Tree water dynamics under warming and drying conditions.

The Science 
A novel tree manipulation study shows the roles of hydraulic acclimation to both precipitation and temperature in two tree species and unravels their effects.

The Impact
Analysis of a vast number of tree-water dynamics observations shows juniper and piñon trees have different physiological responses to heat and drought stress including varying ability to acclimate.  Our new framework allows separation of temperature and precipitation responses in these species, and provides a path forward for better model representations of how trees will function within the evolving Earth system.

Previous findings suggested warming superimposed on drought would exacerbate drought stress and increase mortality. However, during this study’s five-year period of warmer and much drier conditions, no mortality was observed. The tree stomata adjusted to heat and drought even when other functions were drastically impaired by drought—stomata acclimation prevented tree death from the additive effects of warming and drying. Also, previous work had revealed that juniper trees can be highly resistant to drought, keeping their stomata open, while piñon shut down all functions that kept them alive. However, in this study, juniper was unable to significantly acclimate and showed strong reductions in function. Piñon, which suffered when exposed to drought, acclimated when warming was the only stressor. Piñon retained hydrological functions including sap production to repel invaders.


Daniel Stover
Daniel.Stover@science.doe.gov (301-903-0289)

Dorothy Koch
dorothy.koch@science.doe.gov (301-903-0105)

Renu Joseph SC-23.1
renu.joseph@science.doe.gov (301-903-9237)

(PI Contact)
Charlotte Grossiord
MS J495
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, NM, 87545
505 665 2450

The Los Alamos Survival-Mortality (SUMO) Experiment was funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research.

Grossiord, et al. 2017. “Tree water dynamics in a drying and warming world,” Plant, Cell & Environment 40, 1861-1873. DOI: 10.1111/pce.12991.

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


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