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.
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, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Davis | Newswise Science News
Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
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...
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...
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...
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...
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)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy