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Loss of eastern hemlock will affect forest water use
Date:5/9/2013

eastern hemlock trees are deciduous, such as sweet birch, which unlike the evergreen rhododendron and eastern hemlock, do not transpire during the winter. Sweet birch trees also have a much higher transpiration rate than eastern hemlock trees during the growing season.

"The cumulative effect of these species changes will probably mean permanent changes in seasonal transpiration patterns," says Brantley. "In the growing season, transpiration rates will likely rise, leading to lower stream flow in the summer. However, transpiration rates in the winter will be reduced, which could cause increased winter stream discharge."

Whatever species eventually replace eastern hemlock, there will be important long-term implications for riparian habitats beyond stream discharge. Without the shade provided by eastern hemlock, stream temperatures could rise, threatening aquatic animals like eastern brook trout that require cold water for survival. The loss of eastern hemlock will not only affect the animal and plant communities in riparian habitats, but ecosystem function throughout these areas.


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Contact: Steven Brantley
sbrantle@umn.edu
828-524-2128 x116
USDA Forest Service ‑ Southern Research Station
Source:Eurekalert

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