Natural Wonder – Why do trees lose their leaves?

Biodiversity Revolution

This is an interesting question and it all comes down to water.

Leaves are the powerhouses of plants. They convert air and water into sugars using the suns energy, a process known as  photosynthesis, which in turn feeds the plant. So if there isn’t enough water around, the leaves can’t do their function or become damaged, and so become a burden to the planet. Faced with this choice plants are then better off doing without these expensive support organs.

If this process occurs regularly, or is timed to a season, trees that lose their leave are termed deciduous.

There are actually three common situations when deciduousness occurs.

688323762-deciduousforest-snow-covered-rhineland-palatinate-stem Winter deciduous forest in North America

The first is termed winter-deciduousness and occurs in dry, cold winters. During winter, particularly in the northern hemisphere, there is low rainfall and much of the water available to the plant is frozen in the ground. Without…

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Since deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter and their ability to perform photosynthesis, do they have to store food to stay alive?

Idaho Ask a Scientist

Question answered by Kristin Kaser, Plant Ecologist, INL ESER Program

Yes, deciduous trees must store food to stay alive in the
winter. During the spring, deciduous trees begin creating food through
photosynthesis; they are simultaneously preparing for their dormant period
where they store extra nutrients as starches in underground structures like
roots. As the growing season comes to an end, the tree responds to a shortening
of the photoperiod which triggers the plant to drop leaves. Trees become
dormant to protect themselves from freezing, as any water left inside their tissues,
such as leaves, can turn into ice.

trees are adapted to prevent ice damage. First, the chemicals triggered by the
decreasing photoperiod signals cell growth to stall. Second, the mechanics of
water movement within a tree are stopped. Tree trunks have vascular tissues
specifically designed to transport water. These tissues can have devastating
cell damage from the formation…

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