The effect of a water shortage on trees is complex and depends on a number of different factors. Soil composition, root depth, length of the drought, all of these can have a big impact on how a tree responds to a shortage of available water. If your tree dies from lack of water, you will have to find a tree removal service.
Trees growing in dense soils like clay tend to have shallower root depth which makes them more susceptible to drought conditions. On the other hand, clay retains water more effectively than loose sandy soil, and this can reduce the effects of a drought. This is just one of the complex issues involved in understanding how much drought is too much for a tree.
To dig a little deeper, let’s explore a few things you need to know in order to understand how much drought can trees take.
How Does a Tree Use Water?
Understanding how a tree uses water will help you recognize drought damage when you see it. It will also be useful in predicting how much special care a specific tree will need to make it through drought conditions.
One of the main things that water is needed for in trees is transpiration. Transpiration is the movement of water from the roots, through the structure of the tree, and ultimately to surface of the leaves where it evaporates into the atmosphere.
Transpiration is important to trees for two reasons:
Nutrition. As water is drawn up through the roots by transpiration, it brings nutrients from the soil and these nutrients are absorbed by the tree as the water works its way up the trunk.Cooling. Just like sweat on your skin, water cools the trees leaves as it evaporates. This helps protect the leaves from being damaged by the heat of the sun.
The other important use of water in a tree is the production of energy through photosynthesis. Water is one of the main components of photosynthesis along with carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere. Without a sufficient supply of water, the tree will be unable to produce the energy it needs to survive.
Natural Habitat of the Tree
The place where a tree is growing is not necessarily similar to the environment where its species evolved. Knowing a little bit about a tree’s genetic roots (pun intended) can tell you a lot about what kind of conditions it will tolerate.
Trees that evolved in places with long cold winters, are likely to be well-adapted to long periods without water, whereas trees that come from tropical jungle climates may not handle drought as well.
Deciduous trees are able to adjust to the stress of the drought by ceasing transpiration and dropping their leaves until the water returns. This helps them weather dry spells more effectively than conifers that can’t drop their leaves.
Signs That a Tree is Suffering from Drought
No matter how well-adapted to their environment, all trees are negatively affected by drought. The extent of harm done to trees might vary based on their type, but here are some general signs you can look for that are a dead giveaway for drought damage.
- Yellowing leaves
- Dropped leaves
- Wilting, or drooping leaves, or leaves that are curled at the tips
- Browning in the leaves, or burnt-looking edges on the leaves
- Yellowing needles
- Insect damage, especially bark beetles
- Needles falling earlier than two years of age