Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Understanding History of Southeast Asia’s Island Rainforests Crucial to Understanding Impact of Human Deforestation

09.07.2009
Knowing the past shows how present deforestation is tipping the scales toward extinction for some Southeast Asian plants and animals already in danger.

After studying a million years of forest evolution on Southeast Asian islands, a Texas Tech University plant biologist said human deforestation and future climate change may add insult to injury for species in an already precarious situation.

Chuck Cannon, lead investigator for the study, said his team studied how changes in climate and sea levels affected the Sundaland-area rainforest’s evolutionary history in the last million years. Many important animals, such as the orangutan, are already at unusually low population sizes because of natural changes from the last Ice Age.

Since the current distribution of rainforests scattered on the major islands of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and the Malaysian peninsula are in retreat – working in reverse of how forests in higher latitudes have grown back where glaciers once covered the ground – future climate change and deforestation may cause worse damage to an area already in survival mode.

“Understanding the historical spatial dynamics of forest distribution plays a crucial role in the ability to predict community response to future change,” Cannon said. “This also has major conservation implications, as the forests are being cut down in Southeast Asia. They already went through a fairly recent and major reduction and fragmentation event, at the end of the last Ice Age.”

The results were published June 19 in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Much has been written about the decline and degradation of Southeast Asia’s rainforests, Cannon said. Converting natural forests to plantations has continued at a high rate for many years, which fragments the rainforest and leaves fractured habitats for endangered species such as orangutans, gibbons, sun bears and clouded leopards.

Cannon’s new model highlights the fact that rainforest conversion by humans is occurring only a few thousand years after a major natural reduction and fragmentation of forest area occurred when glaciers melted and sea levels rose.

All of these endangered species were at historical lows in their population and already highly vulnerable to population extinction. Now, Cannon said activity could be accelerating that extinction.

During the last Ice Age, when much of the water was trapped in glaciers in higher latitudes, this area, known as Sundaland, had rainforests that flourished and expanded into an Amazon-like river basin.

When the glaciers melted, sea levels rose and flooded this river basin, marooning forests on high grounds, isolating plants and animals and creating a refugial stage for the rainforest ecosystem that clings to survival on the land that is left.

While scientists understand the expansion of populations out of the refugial stage, they know almost nothing about how areas in the refugial stage are formed, he said. This is a critical question confronting ecologists and biogeographers in Southeast Asia, and Cannon’s model provides a tool for exploring these dynamics.

“Using detailed historical models of how the rainforests of Southeast Asia worked in the past will greatly enhance our understanding of future response to climate change and development and will provide insight into how to best mitigate the ongoing conversion and degradation of these mega-diverse forests,” he said.

The report can be downloaded at www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/06/18/0809865106.abstract.

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu.

CONTACT: Chuck Cannon, associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical garden, chuck.cannon@ttu.edu or chuck@xtbg.ac.cn.

John Davis | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.ttu.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New tech for commercial Lithium-ion batteries finds they can be charged 5 times fast

20.02.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Hidden talents: Converting heat into electricity with pencil and paper

20.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Rare find from the deep sea

20.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>