Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UCBS's NCEAS find tropical forest blossoms are sensitive to changing climate

09.07.2013
The North Pole isn't the only place on Earth affected by slight increases in temperature.

Until recently, scientific thinking used to posit that tropical forests, which already exist in warm climates, may not be impacted much by climate change. But a new study conducted by UC Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) shows that to be erroneous.


The forest canopy from Barro Colorado Island, Panama shows Tabebuia guayacan in bloom.
Credit: S. Joseph Wright

In fact, the results indicate that tropical forests are producing more flowers in response to only slight increases in temperature. The findings were published online yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Tropical forests are commonly thought of as the lungs of the Earth and how many flowers they produce is one vital sign of their health," said Stephanie Pau, who conducted the research as part of a Forecasting Phenology working group while she was a postdoctoral associate at NCEAS. "However, there is a point at which forests can get too warm and flower production will decrease. We're not seeing that yet at the sites we looked at, and whether that happens depends on how much the tropics will continue to warm."

The study, which used a new globally gridded satellite dataset, examined how changes in temperature, clouds, and rainfall affect the number of flowers tropical forests produce. Analysis of the data indicated that clouds mainly have an effect on short-term seasonal growth, but longer-term changes in these forests appear to be due to temperature. While other studies have used long-term flower production data, this is the first study to combine these data with direct estimates of cloud cover based on satellite information.

"This study is an inspired example of integrating diverse existing data to do something never imagined when the data were originally collected," explained Stephanie Hampton, deputy director of NCEAS. "Flowers were probably not what NASA scientists were thinking of when they archived these cloud data. Having access to environmental 'big data' and the skills to do data-intensive research drives innovation for creative teams like this."

Pau led a team of international researchers who studied seasonal and year-to-year flower production in two contrasting tropical forests: a seasonally dry forest on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, and a rainforest in Luquillo, Puerto Rico. According to Pau, the seasonally dry site has been producing more flowers at an average rate of 3 percent each year over the last several decades, an increase that appears to be tied to warming temperatures. Pau collaborated with NCEAS scientific programmer/analyst James Regnetz to scrutinize the data.

Flower productivity is a measure of the reproductive health and overall growth of the forests. The amount of sunlight reaching tropical forests due to varying amounts of cloud cover is an important factor, just not the most important when it comes to flower production. According to Pau, both sites still appear to respond positively to increases in light availability, yet temperature was the most consistent factor across multiple time scales.

"With most projections of future climate change, people have emphasized the impact on high-latitude ecosystems because that is where temperatures will increase the most," Pau said. "The tropics, which are already warm, probably won't experience as much of a temperature increase as high-latitude regions. Even so, we're showing that these tropical forests are still really sensitive to small degrees of change."

"The increasing availability of large data sets from long-term field studies and satellite data provide new opportunities to study how forests are responding to a warmer world," said Frank Davis, director of NCEAS. "Their discovery shows just how sensitive these systems can be to even small temperature changes."

Pau's co-authors include Benjamin I. Cook of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Christopher J. Nytch and Jess K. Zimmerman of the University of Puerto Rico's Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Studies, Elizabeth M. Wolkovich of the University of British Columbia's Biodiversity Research Centre, and S. Joseph Wright of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Julie Cohen | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ia.ucsb.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>