Tree survival strategy: New study sheds light on how forest ecosystems survive damaging winds

Forest ecosystems and their trees are known for their vital role in not only providing natural habitats and ecological refuge for animals, but they also serve as a reservoir in the event of massive flooding due to heavy rains and other storms. However, some trees are unable to escape the impact of destructive winds.

A new paper has explored the mechanical dynamics behind why some trees are able to survive high winds, while others in forest ecosystems are easily blown away. The secret lies in the proximity of the trees to each other.

Tree Survival Strategy

(Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP via Getty Images)

The researchers explored the case of Tropical Cyclone Trami or Super Typhoon Trami, which affected several countries and regions, including Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Guam, the Mariana Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, the US state of Alaska and the Russian Far East region. , in September 2018.

The researchers focused on the mechanical process of tree survival strategy, an area that has not received attention from previous research; overlooking the mechanical behavior of trees during a tropical cyclone, according to the new study published in the journal Scientists progress Friday, March 11.

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Proximity matters

As a methodology, the team fitted sensors called strain gauges to two distinct groups of trees with “thick patches” and “thin patches” in forest ecosystems. This determined how trees survive the destructive winds of the storm, as well as measuring the response of trees to intense wind force.

The method has yielded results that show thick patches, compacted areas of trees in forest ecosystems, serve as a mechanism to share the impact of destructive winds and survive even a Category 5 cyclone. A key part of this strategy of survival is the proximity of trees to each other.

During this time, the team discovered that parts of forest ecosystems with thin patches or an area that have less compacted trees are more vulnerable to damage. In this zone, trees have a high risk of breaking their branches or being uprooted by strong winds.

The growing threat posed by human activities, including deforestation, and climate change contribute to the further decline of trees in a forest ecosystem, as National Geographic points out. This implies that a deforested area makes trees more vulnerable not only to damaging winds but also to flooding.

Forest ecosystems at risk

The increasing intensity of storms due to climate change in recent years has amplified not only its economic impact but also its long-term environmental consequences, according to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2014.

This notion was also highlighted by the recent paper, postulating that climate change will increase the intensity of future storms, including typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes, highlighting that further damage to trees and forest ecosystems is expected. in the years to come.

Its researchers said understanding the survival strategy of trees against damaging winds for the foreseeable future can help identify trees that can survive in forest ecosystems through successive storms.

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