UCLA life scientists, working with colleagues in China, have discovered a new method to quickly assess plants' drought tolerance. The method works for many diverse species growing around the world. The research, published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, may revolutionize the ability to survey plant species for their ability to withstand drought, said senior author Lawren Sack, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "This method can be applied rapidly and reliably for diverse species across ecosystems worldwide," he said of the federally funded research by the National Science Foundation. Droughts, which are a major threat to plants worldwide, are expected to become both more frequent and more severe with climate change, Sack said. Assessing species' vulnerabilities to drought is essential to predict their responses to climate change and plan their conservation, he said. The new method, based on a technique called "osmometry," requires only about 10 minutes per leaf, sufficient to make a fast estimate for a given species.