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Researchers discover evidence of rainforest resilience to global warming

A team of researchers, led by Dr. Chris Huntingford from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, has discovered more evidence of rainforest resilience to global warming. Their findings reveal that tropical forests are less likely to lose biomass due to global warming than climatologists previously thought. According to the BIOMASS Energy Centre, biomass is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms.

Researchers undertook the most comprehensive study yet of the risk of tropical forest dieback due to global warming. They contend that their results have significant implications for the role of tropical rainforests in the global climate system and carbon cycle.

Researchers utilized computer simulations with 22 climate models to examine the response of the tropical forests in the Americas, Africa and Asia to greenhouse-gas-induced climate change.

They discovered loss of forest cover in only one model, and only in the Americas. They also discovered that the biggest source of uncertainty in the projections to be variations in how plant physiological processes are represented.

Although the study reveals more evidence of rainforest resilience to global warming, the study also shows where significant uncertainties lie in pinpointing how ecosystems act in response to global warming.

“Uncertainties are associated with different carbon stock responses in models with different representations of vegetation processes on the one hand, and differences in projected changes in temperature and precipitation patterns on the other hand,” wrote the authors in the study’s abstract.

Dr. Huntingford noted that the biggest surprise in their findings was that uncertainties in ecological models of the rainforest are much larger than uncertainties from variations in climate projections. Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that there is evidence of rainforest resilience for the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Co-author Dr David Galbraith from the University of Leeds said that the study shows why climatologists must advance their understanding of how rainforests change in response to global warming. He also pointed out that other factors not considered in the study, like fire and deforestation, will also impact the carbon stored in tropical rainforests. He recommended that modelling studies be considered along with comprehensive forest observations.

The study’s findings are described in detail in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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