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OSU study: Drier air likely to cause more harm than lower rainfall in Douglas fir stands

OSU researchers on a forested slope
Lina DiGregorio
Oregon State University
OSU researchers on a forested slope

Researchers at Oregon State University have found that Douglas fir trees can tap into sources of water deep in the soil during long seasons without rain, but the trees become stressed when the air is hot and dry.

Kevin Bladon is in the Forest Engineering department at OSU and collaborated on the study. He told KLCC their modeling has implications for future tree health. “If you look at a lot of the climate change models," he said, "what we see is there’s greater certainty that we’re likely to see warmer air and drier air conditions. There’s less certainty with the precipitation input, and a lot more variability in that.”

Bladon said they were surprised to learn the firs aren’t as reliant on spring and summer rainfall. He said one thing forest managers might think about is orienting blocks of trees to minimize the likelihood that dry winds could blow into them and cause harm.

He said more research is needed on the effects of weather anomalies, such as the record-breaking temperatures during the 2021 heat dome.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.