After analyzing 42 different sites scattered throughout the Neotropics, researchers from the University of Stirling discovered how Leguminosae trees could play a vital role in restoring many of the secondary forests that reside in dry areas.
The findings have been published this week in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
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Among the 42 sites that the researchers explored were both wet and dry regions throughout Central and South America. Notably, the Leguminosae trees appeared twice as frequently in drier areas than they did in wetter ones, suggesting that these trees out-live their drought-intolerant counterparts.
As it would seem, this particular family of trees is more resistant to drought than initially thought, and this may have implications for how we’ll cope with forest regeneration in drier climates going forward.
"Our study shows that trees in the Leguminosae family are critical to tropical forest regrowth in dry regions," explained study co-author Dr. Daisy Dent.
"As global temperatures warm and dry conditions become more widespread in the tropics, this has major implications for forest recovery across the region."
In addition to higher tolerance to dryness, Leguminosae trees cope well in environments with poor soil, which appears to be a typical quality of secondary forests. Furthermore, they keep nitrogen levels in check and benefit the plants around them.
The findings underscore the critical role that Leguminosae trees might play as experts move forward with conducting the Bonn Challenge – an effort to restore vast amounts of global forest space in coming decades.
"In light of the goals of the Bonn Challenge, our study will directly influence how we match tree species to site conditions to maximize the effective restoration of degraded tropical lands," Dent added.
It should be intriguing to see how this drought-tolerant faimly of trees may assist with forest regeneration. After all, so many forests are needlessly mowed down over time, and most environmentalists agree that the planet desperately needs them back.