The fog comes in, and a drop of water forms on a pine needle, rolls down the needle, and falls to the forest floor. The process is repeated over and over, on each pine needle of every tree in a forest of Bishop pines on Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of Santa Barbara. That fog drip helps the entire forest ecosystem stay alive.
Thousands of years ago, in cooler and wetter times, Bishop pine trees are thought to have proliferated along the West Coast of the U.S. and Mexico. Now, stratus clouds -- the low-altitude clouds known locally as "June gloom-help keep the trees growing on Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, and on one island off Baja California. Other than these locations, Bishop pine trees grow only farther north in California where it is cooler and wetter.
Mariah S. Carbone, first author of a new paper, titled "Cloud Shading and Fog Drip Influence the Metabolism of a Coastal Pine Ecosystem," and her co-authors, studied the influence of clouds on ...