Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT team describes unique cloud forest

15.09.2006
Trees that live in an odd desert forest in Oman have found an unusual way to water themselves by extracting moisture from low-lying clouds, MIT scientists report.

In an area that is characterized mostly by desert, the trees have preserved an ecological niche because they exploit a wispy-thin source of water that only occurs seasonally, said Elfatih A.B. Eltahir, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and former MIT graduate student Anke Hildebrandt.

After studying the Oman site, they also expressed concern that the unusual forest could be driven into extinction if hungry camels continue eating too much of the foliage. As the greenery disappears it's possible the trees will lose the ability to pull water from the mist and recharge underground reservoirs.

A report on their research was published in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters. They are also advising the Omani government on handling the problem.

The forest is especially unique, said Eltahir and Hildebrandt, because it "is a water-limited seasonal cloud forest" that is kept alive by water droplets gathered from passing clouds -- ground fog. The water dribbles into the ground and sustains the trees later when the weather is dry. The MIT work suggests the trees actually get more of their water through contact with clouds than via rainfall.

In general, cloud forests are not really rare. But they occur most frequently in moist tropical regions where there is ample rainfall. So it is unusual, the researchers said, to find a cloud forest in a region known for chronic dryness.

The researchers studied the area in Oman to learn how the Dhofar Mountain ecosystem "functions naturally, and how it may respond to human activity" that could lead to desertification and the need for reforestation.

Eltahir and Hildebrandt, who is now at the UFZ Center for Environmental Research, in Leipzig, Germany, said the unusual forest is an interesting remnant "of a moist vegetation belt that once spread across the Arabian Peninsula" in the distant past. At that time the regional climate was generally wetter.

The forested area in the Sultanate of Oman is now semi-arid, and most of the ancient tree vegetation is gone. This small remnant has managed to survive in the Dhofar Mountains.

But it is under threat.

Although many Omanis have moved into cities and towns as the country has grown rich on oil, Eltahir explained, a family's prestige still comes from owning many camels, and people now tend to keep more camels than they need, which is part of the problem facing the forest.

"It is an unusual place," Eltahir said. "It's a very good example of a unique and fragile ecosystem" where constant pressure from over-grazing can have consequences beyond defoliation. In fact, the forest illustrates how small changes can lead to major impact on far bigger systems, Eltahir said.

The trees in wetter ecosystems would likely recover from small amounts of over-grazing, Eltahir said, but "in this location, due to the nature of the interaction of the canopy structure with the clouds, the trees may not recover."

The two said the forest probably would not regenerate naturally once it is gone. Without the trees that sweep the extra water from clouds, the forest cannot regrow. Grass, even if abundant, cannot collect enough moisture from fog to let a forest regrow.

Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>