From: Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published March 11, 2013 05:58 AM

Impacts of Global Warming on Rainforest Modeled

Tropical forests may be less sensitive to global warming than previously thought, argues a new study published in Nature Geoscience.

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The research is based on computer simulations using 22 climate models for tropical forests in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. It projects loss of forest biomass as a result of climate change only in the Americas.

However the study is far from conclusive, with the authors listing several uncertainties about how tropical forests will respond to climate change.

"The big surprise in our analysis is that uncertainties in ecological models of the rainforest are significantly larger than uncertainties from differences in climate projections," said lead author Chris Huntingford of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in the UK. "Despite this we conclude that based on current knowledge of expected climate change and ecological response, there is evidence of forest resilience for the Americas (Amazonia and Central America), Africa and Asia."

In other words, the modeling suggests that forests may be less sensitive to die-off from climate change alone. Earlier projections using one of the same climate models — the HadCM3 developed by the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre — forecast massive die-off in the Amazon by 2011, potentially tipping much of the world's largest rainforest toward a drier, savanna-like ecosystem.

Misty rainforest image via Shutterstock.

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