Tropical forests more resilient to global warming

PTI London | Updated on March 11, 2013

The work suggests that the risk of climate-induced damage to tropical forests will be relatively small.

Tropical forests are less likely to lose biomass — plants and plant material — in response to greenhouse gas emissions over the 21st century than previously thought, a new study has claimed.

An international research team led by Dr Chris Huntingford from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in the UK, used computer simulations with 22 climate models to explore the response of tropical forests in the Americas, Africa and Asia to greenhouse-gas-induced climate change.

They found loss of forest cover in only one model, and only in the Americas.

Although the work suggests that the risk of climate-induced damage to tropical forests will be relatively small, the paper does list where the considerable uncertainties remain in defining how ecosystems respond to global warming.

“The big surprise in our analysis is that uncertainties in ecological models of the rainforest are significantly larger than uncertainties from differences in climate projections,” Huntingford said.

“Despite this we conclude that based on current knowledge of expected climate change and ecological response, there is evidence of forest resilience for the Americas (Amazonia and Central America), Africa and Asia,” he said.

“This study highlights why we must improve our understanding of how tropical forests respond to increasing temperature and drought,” co-author Dr David Galbraith from the University of Leeds said.

“Different vegetation models currently simulate remarkable variability in forest sensitivity to climate change. And while these new results suggest that tropical forests may be quite resilient to warming, it is important also to remember that other factors not included in this study, such as fire and deforestation, will also affect the carbon stored in tropical forests,” he said.

The study was published in Nature Geoscience.

Published on March 11, 2013

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