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Redwoods Adapt to Climate with New Leaves

Humans aren’t the only ones getting ready and adapting to a changing climate.

California’s world famous redwoods have started growing special new leaves to deal with drought.

It has long been accepted that trees absorb water through their leaves. But a new study published in the American Journal of Botany, shows that redwoods adapt their capacity for water intake to their particular environmental conditions.

Redwoods have two kinds of leaf shoots: axial and peripheral. Peripheral shoots are what most of us think of as leaves - they’re longer and perform photosynthesis. The axial shoots, though, are smaller and bunched closer to the twigs and, crucially, suck up four times more water than the peripheral shoots.

Researchers found that trees in drier locations are growing axial leaves higher on the trunk, making them better able to absorb moisture from rain or fog. In wetter climates like Oregon, where drought isn’t as severe as in California, redwoods are growing their axial leaves lower on their trunks.

We’re seeing trees reaching for moisture higher up where they can get it, adapting in real-time to drought and a changing climate.


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