Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Forests around the world affected by climate change

23.12.2014

Around the globe, forests are found to be undergoing strong changes due to human influence already today.

Degradation of woods due to man-made climate change cannot be ruled out for the future, a Special Feature in the Journal of Ecology, led by a team of scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), now shows. To understand and improve the resilience of forests, a combination of approaches from small-scale field experiments to large-scale computer simulations can help, according to the studies. Taking a risk perspective, the scientists caution that global warming puts additional pressure on some of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth.

"Forests are probably more at risk than previously thought,” says Christopher Reyer of PIK, coordinator of the Special Feature and lead-author of an overview article. “The observed changes affect forests as important as the Amazon, but also forests on all continents, possibly pushing some of them towards tipping points.”

Up to now, no example could be found where forests tipped into a state where no regrowth is possible due to man-made climate change. Yet the overview article identifies substantial research gaps. “This is hardly good news,” Reyer says. “It is in fact scary how little we still know about the resilience of forests, despite all the scientific progress we present in this special issue. From a risk perspective, climate change puts additional pressure on an exceptionally valuable ecosystem whose stability up to now cannot be properly assessed.”

**Forests preserve biodiversity, provide timber, store CO2**

Besides being home to a large part of the world’s plants and animals, hence preserving biodiversity, forests are also of great economic relevance. They provide timber in many countries, as well as game and fruit. “Some tropical forests, such as the Amazon, are also key for regional water cycles,” says Milena Holmgren of the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. "How dense these forests are, affects the amount of rainfall that is recycled and also the amount of water that is retained. When forests become less dense, a smaller amount of water is recycled as rain and also less water is retained in the soil. Less dense forests facilitate also the growth of grass which burns easily in dry seasons. Fire can change the rules of the game drastically because grass burns easily and recovers fast whereas trees are very sensitive and need more time. So once a forest has been opened and starts burning, the end result can be a system that resembles a savanna with much grass and fewer trees. This changes the habitat for plants, animals and people.”

“The fate of forests is important also because they store huge amounts of the greenhouse gas CO2,” adds Holmgren. “Loosing forests and releasing carbon to the atmosphere contributes to climate warming and to the impacts we start to see in many regions of the world.”

**"Alleviating the negative effects of climate change on reforestation efforts" **

To assess the resilience of forests, long time scales are important. Over 2000 years, tropical peat swamp forests from Malaysian Borneo showed to be resilient even under disturbances such as fire or climate variability related to the El Niño weather phenomenon. Recent burning and agricultural expansion however clearly changed the landscape by replacing tropical peat swamp forests with open or even no forest. Still, things are not straightforward. Drought, on the other hand, is found to have variable effects on different tree species in different regions, and seasons, one of the new studies shows. In the end, it is a complex combination of stress factors that is likely to impact forests’ resilience.

In Finland and Australia, scientists performed field experiments on regrowth of forests. A joint dutch-finish team examined how boreal peat bogs can shift to forests and concluded that shrubs can pave the way for greener tree dominated landscapes in the far northern hemisphere. The Australian team studied the timing of seeding and the use of seedlings in restoring sites. “Adapted restoration practices could help alleviate the negative effects of climate change on reforestation efforts,” says Rachel Standish of The University of Western Australia. “We have some encouraging findings here. This is even more important as the area of disturbed forest ecosystems is clearly growing.”

Article: Reyer, C., Brouwers, N., Rammig, A., Brook, B., Epila, J., Grant, R.F., Holmgren, M., Langerwisch, F., Leuzinger, S., Lucht, W., Medlyn, B., Pfeiffer, M., Steinkamp, J., Vanderwel, M., Verbeeck, H., Villela, D. (2014): Forest resilience and tipping points at different spatio-temporal scales: approaches and challenges. Journal of Ecology (online) [DOI:10.1111/1365-2745.12337]

Article: Reyer, C., Rammig, A., Brouwers, N., Langerwisch, F. (2014): Forest resilience, tipping points and global change processes. Journal of Ecology (online) [DOI:10.1111/1365-2745.12342]

Article: Camarero, J.J., Gazol, A., Sangüesa-Barreda, G., Oliva, J., Vicente-Serrano, S.M. (2014): To die or not to die: early warnings of tree dieback in response to a severe drought. Journal of Ecology (online)

Article: Cole, L.E.S., Bhagwat, S.A., Willis, K.J. (2014): Long-term disturbance dynamics and resilience of tropical peat swamp forests. Journal of Ecology (online) [DOI:10.1111/1365-2745.12329]

Article: Holmgren, M., Lin, C.-Y., Murillo, J.E., Nieuwenhuis, A., Penninkhof, J., Sanders, N., van Bart, T., van Veen, H., Vasander, H., Vollebregt, M.E., Limpens, J. (2014): Positive shrub-tree interactions facilitate woody encroachment in boreal peatlands. Journal of Ecology (online)

Article: Jakovac, A.C.C., Peña-Claros, M., Kuyper, T.W., Bongers, F. (2014): Loss of secondary-forest resilience by land-use intensification in the Amazon. Journal of Ecology (online)

Article: Standish, R.J., Daws, M.I., Gove, A.D., Didham, R.K., Grigg, A.H., Koch, J.M., Hobbs, R.J. (2014): Long-term data suggest jarrah-forest establishment at restored mine sites is resistant to climate variability. Journal of Ecology (online)

Article: Steinkamp, J., Hickler, T. (2014): Is drought-induced forest dieback globally increasing? Journal of Ecology (online)

Weblink to the articles once they're published: http://www.journalofecology.org/view/0/specialfeatures.html

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Twitter: @PIK_Climate

Jonas Viering | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung
Further information:
http://www.pik-potsdam.de

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA eyes Pineapple Express soaking California
24.02.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht 'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field
23.02.2017 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>