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Lungs of the planet reveal their true sensitivity to global warming

odels 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
University of Exeter

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