Tropical Forests Will Struggle In A Fast-Warming World

Plants in tropical forests are by nature resistant to heat, yet that resistance has its limits. If temperatures in the tropics warm too much too fast, say scientists, local trees’ ability to absorb and store atmospheric carbon will suffer. That in turn will accelerate the rate of climate change.

Up to a certain point of warming, “tropical forests are surprisingly resistant to small temperature differences,” says Martin Sullivan, an ecologist at the University of Leeds who specializes in tropical forests.

Sullivan and his colleagues on an international team of researchers measured more than half a million trees in more than 810 forests in the tropics in order to assess how much carbon forests growing under different climatic conditions could store. They have found that temperature increases have a direct bearing on the outcome.

Tropical forests continue to store large degrees of carbon under high temperatures, the researchers say. Trees can handle heat up to around 32 degrees Celsius during daytime; beyond that point, though, they are increasingly less able to store large amounts of carbon. Read more…

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