Can Defoliation/Partial Defoliation help a deciduous tree who is not getting enough water?

I had a sweetgum tree that was collected very late this spring. It’s growing some new leaves but recently has been having some leaves turn yellow/brown. Since its root structure is still very small, would defoliating it help it not lose water and keep it alive?

I’d say nope, don’t touch. The kinda stress that defoliation does to a tree would probably end up killing one that has a less then ideal rootsystem.
Keep it in shade out of direct sun and wind.
You could also try to put a transparent plastic bag over it to keep humidity up.

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