Foothill palo verde trees at the University of Arizonas Desert Laboratory surrounded by buffelgrass. Photo credit: J. Alex Eilts.
Buffelgrass snatches water away from nearby palo verde trees, ultimately killing them.
Scientists thought deep-rooted plants such as desert trees did not compete with grasses for water. Now researchers from the University of Arizona in Tucson report that buffelgrass, an invasive non-native species, grabs water before foothill palo verde trees can.
The situation does not bode well for the trees, said J. Alex Eilts, a doctoral candidate in UA’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology. Native to the Sonoran desert, foothill palo verde trees, or Cercidium microphyllum, cope with drought by shedding branches to reduce the amount of water needed to survive. "It’s as if the trees are self-pruning themselves to death," he said.
Mari N. Jensen | EurekAlert!
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