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Climate Change Could Put Eucalypts at Risk of Death from Air Bubbles

Extreme droughts could lead to widespread death of eucalypts from embolisms, researchers say.

The trees cannot quickly adjust the size of their water transport vessels to cope with variability in water supply.

Their findings, published in this month's Ecology Letters, show the ability of eucalypts to transport water to their leaves has been "hard-wired" over long periods of evolution.

"This places eucalypts — and possibly other tree species — at risk from anticipated rapid changes in climate," said the researchers, led by Dr Sebastian Pfautsch from Western Sydney University's Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment.

Climate change is set to bring rising temperatures, more frequent heatwaves and more droughts.

Since trees cannot migrate to get away from heat and lack of water, they rely on such strategies as dropping leaves and reducing evaporation of water from leaves to cope.

Peter Ostergaard

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