Navigation Links
Lungs of the planet reveal their true sensitivity to global warming
Date:2/6/2013

Tropical rainforests are often called the "lungs of the planet" because they generally draw in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. But the amount of carbon dioxide that rainforests absorb, or produce, varies hugely with year-to-year variations in the climate. In a paper published online this week (Feb 6 2013) by the journal Nature, a team of climate scientists from the University of Exeter, the Met Office-Hadley Centre and the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, has shown that these variations reveal how vulnerable the rainforest is to climate change.

Lead author Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter explained: "We have been struggling for more than a decade to answer the question 'will the Amazon forest die back under climate change?' Our study indicates that the risk is low if climate change is associated with increased plant growth under elevated carbon dioxide. But if this effect declines, or climate warming occurs due to something other than a carbon dioxide increase, we expect to see a significant release of carbon from tropical ecosystems".

The study reveals a new way to find out how sensitive biological systems are to changes in climate. The key was to learn how to read the year-to-year variations in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide increases each year as a result of burning fossil fuels and deforestation. But the amount it goes up from one year to the next depends on whether tropical forests are absorbing carbon dioxide or releasing it and this in turn depends on whether the tropical climate was warmer and dryer than usual, or wetter and cooler. So the trace of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere holds a record of how the lungs of the planet respond when the climate warms or cools.

The team studied how these year-to-year variations in carbon dioxide concentration relate to long-term changes in the amount of carbon stored in tropical rainforests. They found that climate models that predicted tropical forest dieback under climate change also had a very large year-to-year variation in carbon dioxide concentration, while models in which the rainforest was more robust to climate change had more realistic year-to-year variation in carbon dioxide concentration.

By combining this relationship with the year-to-year variation in carbon dioxide as seen in the real world, the team were able to determine that about 50 billion tonnes of carbon would be released for each degree Celsius of warming in the tropics. Peter Cox said the findings were initially a relief: "Fortunately, this carbon release is counteracted by the positive effects of carbon dioxide fertilisation on plant growth under most scenarios of the 21st century, so that overall forests are expected to continue to accumulate carbon."

The researchers are however certain that tropical forests will suffer under climate change if carbon dioxide doesn't fertilise tree growth as strongly as climate models suggest.

Co-author, Chris Jones, of the Met Office said: "The long-term health of tropical forests will depend on their ability to withstand multiple pressures from changing climate and deforestation. Our research has shed light on the former, but the latter remains a significant pressure on this ecosystem."


'/>"/>

Contact: Jo Bowler
j.bowler@exeter.ac.uk
44-013-927-22062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Bioengineer studying how to send drugs to lungs through nanotechnology
2. Planet under Pressure conference, London: Final statement
3. Honoring the fundamental role of microbes in the natural history of our planet
4. Study predicts imminent irreversible planetary collapse
5. Mason environmentalist awarded Blue Planet Prize for lifetime achievement in conservation
6. Top predators key to extinctions as planet warms
7. Earth observation for us and our planet
8. Back to the future: A new science for a changing planet
9. How do corals survive in the hottest reefs on the planet?
10. Research reveals first evidence of hunting by prehistoric Ohioans
11. Studies reveal structure of EV71, a virus causing childhood illnesses
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/3/2016)... 4, 2016 --> --> ... M (105.0), up 1,187% compared with fourth quarter of 2014. ... 517.6 M (loss: 30.0). Earnings per share increased to SEK ... 537.4 M (neg: 74.7). , --> ... to SEK 2,900.5 M (233.6), up 1,142% compared with 2014. ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... , Feb. 2, 2016  BioMEMS devices ... primarily focused on medical screening and diagnostic ... parameters. Wearable devices that facilitate and assure ... of movement are being bolstered through new ... biomedical signal acquisition coupled with wireless connectivity ...
(Date:2/2/2016)... , Feb. 2, 2016   Parabon ... from the U.S. Army Research Office and the ... range and sensitivity of the company,s Snapshot ... Accounting Mission and, more generally, defense-related DNA forensics. ... phenotyping capabilities (predicting appearance and ancestry from DNA ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/8/2016)... Feb. 8, 2016  NanoViricides, Inc. (NYSE MKT: NNVC) (the "Company"), ... Eugene Seymour , MD, MPH, will present information about the company,s ... Hotel in New York City . ... the Windsor Room at 5:30PM EST. Registered attendees can request a ... York City . --> New York ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... , Feb. 8, 2016  Diplomat Pharmacy, Inc. (NYSE: DPLO) announced today that its new website ... pharmacy resource–user-centric, story-driven, knowledge-based and mobile-friendly. Visit the ... ... ... "The goal was to ...
(Date:2/6/2016)... ... 06, 2016 , ... The Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) will sponsor ... on Wednesday February 10, 2016. This Bite of Science session, hosted by the ... at 1500 Remount Road in Front Royal, VA from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ...
(Date:2/5/2016)... -- ATCC, the premier global biological materials resource and ... life science researchers that are working to address the ... CDC website . --> CDC website ... single-stranded RNA virus of the Flaviviridae family, genus Flavivirus, ... Viruses. Zika virus is transmitted to humans primarily through ...
Breaking Biology Technology: