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Slow-growing ponderosa pines may have a better chance of surviving longer than fast-growing ones, especially as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of drought, according to new research from the University of Montana.
Researchers found that ponderosa longevity might hinge on the shape of microscopic valve-like structures between the cells that transport water through the tree.
Study - UM - Alumna - Beth - Roskilly
The study, led by UM alumna Beth Roskilly and Professor Anna Sala, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. The researchers sampled growth rates of ponderosa pine trees of varying ages at two remote sites in Idaho. They also studied structural traits of the trees' xylem—vascular tissue that transports water and minerals through the wood and provides structural support.
Their findings reveal that some young trees grow quickly while others grow slowly. But old ponderosa pine trees—those older than 350 years—are slow growers compared to younger trees, and these individual trees have always been slow growing, even when they were young.
Contrast - Predictions - Trees - Denser - Wood
In contrast to predictions, slow-growing trees, whether old or young, did not produce denser, tougher wood, which might have made the trees more resistant to disease or decay. Instead, a key difference between fast and slow growers resides in a microscopic valve-like structure between the cells that transport water in the wood, called the pit membrane. The unique shape of this valve in slow-growing trees provides greater safety against...
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