Trees’ Internal Water Pipes Predict Which Species Survive Drought

Igor Heifetz ・ High Meadows Environmental Institute

Massive tree die-offs due to drought have ravaged forests across the American West and left ecologists struggling to predict how and when tree deaths will happen, and how rising temperatures due to climate change might affect the health of forests.

In a new study, a team including Princeton University researchers has identified the traits that best protect trees against death from drought. Published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found that the species most resistant to drought are those that are better at withstanding stress to the water transport system — composed of internal pipes known as xylem — that carries water from the roots to the crown.