Can you plant trees to protect yourself from wildfires? Yes, it turns out.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but scientists have discovered a species of tree that is proving to be resistant to fire.
A property in Spain designated for a study on deadly tree pathogens burned to the ground in 2012. Due to the long lifespan of trees, the project was thought to be finished for many years.
Though the common and holm oaks, pines, and junipers had all burnt to ash, the patch of Mediterranean cypress trees survived. Of the patch of cypress trees at the property, only 1.27 percent of them caught fire.
The researchers suddenly had a new project to study. They discovered that the secret behind the cypress trees is their unique water-retention system.
Their leaves maintain a high water content even through hot and dry conditions, allowing them to survive in drought-prone areas. In fact, the needles maintain the water even after being shed. Over time, this accumulated layer of wet leaves forms a protective border.
In a practical sense, how can we capitalize on this unique adaptation? The Mediterranean cypress trees could be planted as a fire break around other tree species that are less adapted to withstand wildfires.
The research team is studying the trees for any further adaptations that might make them fire-resistant.
All photos via IFL Science