- We expect trees on our property to suffer when it gets very dry, but for tree health, drought severity may not be as important as another factor. Researchers for the U.S. Forest Service have been studying the impacts of drought on trees across the Midwest, including the Northwoods. One ecologist at the Northern Research Station in Rhinelander found surprising results.
"It was the length of drought that was more important than determining the severity," explained Northern Research Station Ecologist Dr. Eric Gustafson. "Trees have the ability to survive droughts by drawing on their energy reserves, and when the drought is long, those energy reserves get depleted."
Data from the research goes into computer models that help predict future forest health. Scientists also noticed that aspens and birch trees are most at risk during drought in the Northwoods. The overall research helps forest managers create healthier forests.
"So we can use those to help managers or to ask questions about what management strategies might be able to produce forests that have the most resilience to drought in terms of the species that are there," said Gustafson.
Results of the study will lead to more research into managing forests.