A novel approach to removing salt from water, inspired by mangrove trees, has been revealed by researchers who say the system could offer an unusual approach to clearing up flood water.

Mangroves, like other trees, employ a system of water transport: it is thought evaporation of moisture from their leaves produces a negative pressure in their water-conducting tissues that helps to draw water into their roots and up their trunks.

This transport relies on surface tension, the fact that water molecules like to interact with the walls of the tissues, and that water molecules exert a “tug” on each other.