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 Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

nachricht Species Richness – a false friend? Scientists want to improve biodiversity assessments
01.08.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

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: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

Im Focus: Scientists improve forecast of increasing hazard on Ecuadorian volcano

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight

16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Transporting spin: A graphene and boron nitride heterostructure creates large spin signals

16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues

16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>