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Trees Remember Heatwaves

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An Aussie eucalypt can “remember” past exposure to extreme heat, helping the tree and its offspring cope with future heatwaves, according to new research that could have important implications for restoring ecosystems and climate-proofing forestry as the number of hot days and heatwaves increase due to climate change.

“Unlike animals, which can bury deeper into the soil or flee to cooler locations, plants are stuck in one spot and so must be able to withstand extreme conditions in situ,” says Dr Rachael Gallagher, senior author of the paper published in Functional Ecology (https://goo.gl/t6vcBc).

Gallagher’s team at Macquarie University looked at how different populations of Eucalyptus grandis seedlings, commonly known as flooded gum or rose gum, responded when they were exposed to a simulated 4-day 42°C heatwave in the lab.

The flooded gum is a widespread tree species along Australia’s east coast from Newcastle in NSW to Cairns in far north Queensland. It is also an important forestry species grown in timber plantations across the globe, including in Australia, South Africa and Brazil.

The researchers found that seedlings whose parents had experienced more days of extreme heat in the wild were better able to cope with the simulated heatwave conditions because they made more...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.