Eucalyptus trees cope fine with extreme heatwaves, defy climate models, survive 50C temps

What happens to a poor tree when you withhold rain for a whole month, then hit it with four days in a row of 43C temperatures? It was so hot, some of the leaves on these trees got close to 49-50 °C.

In at least one gum species in Australia, the answer is “not much”. They suck up lots of water from their deep roots and sweat it out til the heatwave passes. The trees become evaporative coolers “siphoning up” water. They cope so well, that not only did the trees not die, but their trunk and height growth were unaffected. Indeed, only about 1% of the leaf area even exhibited browning.

Whole tree chambers in Richmond, New South Wales, Australia. Twelve 9-m-tall chambers in a field setting (a) enclose the canopies of individual Eucalyptus parramattensis trees rooted in soil (b). Two heatwave chambers can be seen on the left of the infrared image, along with several control chambers (c; temperature in °C).

But with global warming running at a heady 0.13C per decade, you might wonder how many years  will it take for the trees to adapt?

From the paper — “one day”:

The gums rapidly […]

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January 30, 2018 at 10:51AM

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