Rainforest at Biosphere 2 Offers Glimpse into Future of the Amazon


Tropical forests may be more resilient to climate change than previously thought, according to a new study.


Tropical forests may be more resilient to predicted temperature increases under global climate change than previously thought, a study published in the journal Nature Plants suggests. The results could help make climate prediction models more accurate, according to the authors – an international team led by scientists in the University of Arizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

The group studied data from the rainforest habitat at UArizona's Biosphere 2 and compared them to measurements taken at natural tropical forest sites. Due to being encased under a glass dome, the tropical forest at Biosphere 2 is possibly the hottest tropical forest in the world, with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius, about 6 C higher than maximum temperatures currently experienced by natural tropical forests and in the range of what scientists expect them to experience in the year 2100, absent major climate change mitigation.

At Biosphere 2, when the effects of warming and drying were separated, the authors observed that, just as in natural forests, photosynthesis declined as the air dried, but when the air was wet, the trees continued to photosynthesize steadily at ever higher temperatures, right up to a forest-roasting 38 C.  

"No previous studies of tropical forests looked at changes in temperature much beyond to what they experience today," said Scott Saleska, a professor in the UArizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and senior author of the paper. "Biosphere 2 gave us a unique opportunity to look at what might happen when these forests get the full global warming treatment."


Continue reading at University of Arizona.

Image via Chris Richards.