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Hutan Kering Tropis Hadapi Badai Maria

Selama hampir setahun sejak 2017, ahli lingkungan Profesor Skip Van Bloem dan kandidat doktor Tristan Allerton pada Clemson University di South Caroline (Amerika Serikat) meneliti cara pohon-pohon pada hutan kering tropis di Puerto Rico menghadapi Badai Maria—badai Atlantik paling mematikan sejak Badai Jeanne tahun 2004.

Tim ahli meriset daun-daun 13 spesies pohon sangat dominan, sebelum dan sesudah Badai Maria menerjang Puerto Rico September 2017-Februari 2018 (Sarah Lynch Baldwin, David Begnaud/CBS, 28/8/2018). Badai itu menewaskan 2.975 orang di Puerto Rico dan menghancurkan daun-daun yang menyerap cahaya matahari (Inside Ecology, 18/12/2018).

“Our study took us to the Guánica State Forest in southwest Puerto Rico, which comprises one of the best parcels of native dry forest in the Caribbean. Rainfall here is extremely erratic, with huge variability within and between years. The forest also sits on limestone from an ancient coral reef which is extremely porous, meaning trees have little time to capture water as it travels through the underlying rock. As a result, organisms are uniquely adapted to cope with unpredictable water availability,” ungkap Tristan Allerton.

Tim peneliti menyampaikan hasil risetnya pada pertemuan tahunan British Ecological Society, yang dihadiri oleh 1.200 ekolog dari 40 negara pada Selasa, 18 Desember 2018, di Inggris. (British Ecological Society, 18/12/2018). Pohon menukar gas melalui daun dan menyerap CO2 dari atmosfer guna menghasilkan energi dan mengurangi kehilangan air. Tim peneliti menggunakan sensor daung-daun pohon guna mengetahui bentuk dan struktur—ekstraksi gas dari atmosfer. Hasilnya, 11 spesies menyerap CO2 sangat tinggi segera usai Badai Maria.

“A key finding was that the leaves of some of the species contained less chlorophyll than prior to the hurricane. Even though new leaves were better suited structurally to capture valuable resources, lower leaf quality could reduce leaf lifespan and the trees' ability to produce energy", ungkap Profesor Skip Van Bloem dari Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science (British Ecological Society. “Hurricane Maria gave ecologists rare chance to study how tropical dry forests recover.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18/12/2018). 

Oleh: Servas Pandur