Long-term thermal sensitivity of Earth's tropical forests.
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The sensitivity of tropical forest carbon to climate is a key uncertainty in predicting global climate change. Although short-term drying and warming are known to affect forests, it is unknown if such effects translate into long-term responses. Here, we analyze 590 permanent plots measured across the tropics to derive the equilibrium climate controls on forest carbon. Maximum temperature is the most important predictor of aboveground biomass (-9.1 megagrams of carbon per hectare per degree Celsius), primarily by reducing woody productivity, and has a greater impact per °C in the hottest forests (>32.2°C). Our results nevertheless reveal greater thermal resilience than observations of short-term variation imply. To realize the long-term climate adaptation potential of tropical forests requires both protecting them and stabilizing Earth's climate.
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1126/science.aaw7578
Publication InfoSullivan, Martin JP; Lewis, Simon L; Affum-Baffoe, Kofi; Castilho, Carolina; Costa, Flávia; Sanchez, Aida Cuni; ... Phillips, Oliver L (2020). Long-term thermal sensitivity of Earth's tropical forests. Science (New York, N.Y.), 368(6493). pp. 869-874. 10.1126/science.aaw7578. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23428.
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Associate Professor of Tropical Ecology
John Poulsen is an ecologist with broad interests in the maintenance and regeneration of tropical forests and conservation of biodiversity. His research has focused on the effects of anthropogenic disturbance, such as logging and hunting, on forest structure and diversity, abundance of tropical animals, and ecological processes. He has conducted most of his research in Central Africa, where he has also worked as a conservation manager, directing projects to sustainably manage natural resources i
John W. Terborgh
James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences
John W. Terborgh is a James B. Duke Professor of Environmental Science and is Co-Director of the Center for Tropical Conservation at Duke University. He is a member of the National Academy of Science, and for the past thirty-five years, he has been actively involved in tropical ecology and conservation issues. An authority on avian and mammalian ecology in neotropical forests, Dr. Terborgh has published numerous articles and books on conservation themes. Since 1973 he has operated a field statio
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