Research Highlights | Published:

Plant biology

African trees cope with warming

Nature volume 534, page 593 (30 June 2016) | Download Citation

Some trees in Africa already seem to be adapting to the warming climate by using water more efficiently.

Iain Robertson of Swansea University, UK, and his colleagues collected a small number of samples from three tree species in Ethiopia, Namibia and South Africa, covering a small area of the continent. By measuring the ratio of carbon isotopes in each tree ring, the team estimated the water-use efficiency of the trees from 1909 to 2003. They found that two of the three species increased their water-use efficiency — by an average of 25% — over the period.

Using water more sparingly may help to compensate for the predicted decreases in rainfall in Africa, allowing some plants to cope better with climate change than others.

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