A majestic sequoia, a towering oak, or a lofty cypress. Whatever region you’re in, the tallest trees evoke feelings of inspiration and wonder. These trees have often survived natural disasters and centuries of human civilization. But they may not survive as climate change makes droughts more frequent and intense.

Anderson Teixeira: “Larger trees in forests all over the world are relatively more sensitive to drought.”

That’s Kristina Anderson Teixeira, at the Smithsonian Institution. She says taller trees have to pull water farther to reach the top of the tree.

Anderson Teixeira: “They’re essentially sucking through a longer straw. And that’s more difficult.”

And while trees at the top of the canopy are lucky to have the sunniest spot in a forest …

Anderson Teixeira: “During a drought, that top of canopy position is going to become more of a liability – with higher solar radiation leading to higher leaf temperatures, higher wind speeds, lower humidity.”

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These conditions further dry out the trees, making them less able to defend against pests and disease.

Large trees pull more carbon dioxide out of the air and store more carbon than smaller trees. So if they begin dying from drought, forests are likely to lose some of their ability to reduce global warming.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Big trees first to die in severe droughts
Larger trees suffer most during drought in forests worldwide (study)

Bruce Lieberman

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...