Long-term thermal sensitivity of Earth's tropical forests.

Abstract

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.

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Citation

Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1126/science.aaw7578

Publication Info

Sullivan, Martin JP, Simon L Lewis, Kofi Affum-Baffoe, Carolina Castilho, Flávia Costa, Aida Cuni Sanchez, Corneille EN Ewango, Wannes Hubau, et al. (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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Scholars@Duke

Poulsen

John Poulsen

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 in and around parks and reserves, and as the coordinator of government programs to develop low emissions strategies and quantify and monitor forest carbon.

Terborgh

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 station in Peru's Manu National Park where he has overseen the research of more than 100 investigators. Dr. Terborgh earlier served on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Princeton University. In June 1992 he was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of his distinguished work in tropical ecology, and in April 1996 he was awarded the National Academy of Science Daniel Giraud Elliot medal for his research, and for his book Diversity and the Tropical Rainforest. He has served on several boards and advisory committees related to conservation, including the Wildlands Project, Cultural Survival, The Nature Conservancy, The World Wildlife Fund and both the Primate and Ecology Specialist Groups of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.


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