To predict the ecological consequences of climate change for a widely distributed tree species, it is essential to develop a deep understanding of the ecophysiological responses of populations from contrasting climates to varied soil water availabilities. In a new study published in AoB PLANTS, Ma et al. investigated the differential drought tolerance between populations of Pinus tabuliformis from high elevation (HP) and low elevation (LP). Seedlings of these two populations were subjected to a gradual depletion of soil water availability with a series of traits related to growth and water use efficiency being measured. They found that all the measured variables from the HP were affected less by drought compared to those of the LP, and most aspects of the HP were canalized against drought stress. They concluded that the two populations responded differentially to drought stress with the HP showing higher drought tolerance than the LP.