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 Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>