How we might pick the brains of clever trees

Friday 24 May 2019

The discovery that some trees can “remember” heatwaves could help forest managers to deal with the impacts of climate change. Scientists have discovered that an Australian production tree, Eucalyptus grandis (also known as flooded or rose gum), can cope better with extreme heat if its parent tree had survived previous heatwaves.

Researchers at Macquarie University exposed seedlings from a range of environments to a simulated four-day heatwave in a laboratory, with temperatures up to 42deg. Those whose parent trees had experienced more days of extreme heat in the wild were better able to survive, thanks to the production of protective proteins.

Lead author Dr Rachael Gallagher says the finding is significant, because it shows that trees have a form of molecular memory. “By using this approach, we can work out which populations might provide the best seed for restoring ecosystems and climate-proofing forestry as temperatures become more extreme,” she said.

The paper, published in the journal Functional Ecology, says the research has implications for restoration, translocation and silvicultural programmes. “Tree populations with low exposure to extreme heat conditions may be limited in their ability to respond to heatwave events, potentially limiting their adaptive capacity to withstand novel climate conditions,” it says.

Eucalyptus grandis is found naturally across the east coast of Australia from Newcastle to Cairns. It is an important timber production tree in Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

Source: Carbon News

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