This article was originally published on Phys.org
“The vaulted canopies that tower above Earth’s rich tropical forests could be especially vulnerable to climate change-related temperature increases, according to a new report from Florida State University researchers.
In a study published in the journal Ecosphere, scientists found temperatures in the forest canopies of Panama’s Barro Colorado Island exceeded maximum air temperatures by as much as 7 degrees Celsius. Their results suggest that as air temperatures continue to climb, canopy temperatures could increase at a 40 percent higher rate—a shift of potentially major consequence for tropical forest health.
“Tropical forests are among the most productive places on Earth—they account for about 30 percent of terrestrial productivity,” said study author Stephanie Pau, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography. “These forests are vulnerable to climate change and climbing temperatures.”
Tropical species like those in the canopies of Barro Colorado Island evolved to survive within a narrow range of equatorial temperatures, and are therefore hypothesized by scientists to be especially sensitive to minute temperature change.
In this study, researchers analyzed the effect of canopy temperature increase on the forests’ gross primary productivity, or the amount of carbon the forests absorb and process through photosynthesis. They found productivity rates increase with warming temperatures but begin to slow at temperatures between 28 and 29 degrees Celsius (82.4 and 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit), and to decline at high temperatures exceeding 31 degrees Celsius (87.8 degrees Fahrenheit)…”
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