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Hidden 'rock moisture' possible key to forest response to drought

A little-studied, underground layer of rock may provide a vital reservoir for trees, especially in times of drought, report scientists funded by the National Science Foundation. The study looked at the water stored inside the layer of weathered bedrock that lies under soils in mountain forest ecosystems. This transitional zone beneath soils and above groundwater is often overlooked when it comes to studying hydrologic processes, but researchers found that the water contained in the fractures and pores of the rock could play an important role in the water cycle at local and global levels. Researchers found that water in bedrock can sustain trees through droughts even after the soil has become parched. The potential for rock moisture to travel back to the atmosphere by evaporation from tree leaves or to trickle down into groundwater indicates that it could affect the environment and climate on a larger scale.

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