Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Vines choke a forest's ability to capture carbon, Smithsonian scientists report

28.05.2014

Tropical forests are a sometimes-underappreciated asset in the battle against climate change. They cover seven percent of land surface yet hold more than 30 percent of Earth's terrestrial carbon.

As abandoned agricultural land in the tropics is taken over by forests, scientists expect these new forests to mop up industrial quantities of atmospheric carbon. New research by Smithsonian scientists shows increasingly abundant vines could hamper this potential and may even cause tropical forests to lose carbon.


Stefan Schnitzer is worried that lianas are reducing the amount of carbon that tropical forests store on Panama's Barro Colorado Island.

Credit: Smithsonian, Sean Mattson, staff photographer

In the first study to experimentally demonstrate that competition between plants can result in ecosystem-wide losses of forest carbon, scientists working in Panama showed that lianas, or woody vines, can reduce net forest biomass accumulation by nearly 20 percent. Researchers called this estimate "conservative" in findings published this month in Ecology.

"This paper represents the first experimental quantification of the effects of lianas on biomass," said lead author Stefan Schnitzer, a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "As lianas increase in tropical forests, they will lower the capacity for tropical forests to accumulate carbon."

... more about:
»Ecology »biomass »forests »gaps »lianas »tropical »tropics

Previous research by Schnitzer and others demonstrated that lianas are increasing in tropical forests around the globe. No one knows why. Decreased rainfall is one suspect, but lianas, which are generally more drought-tolerant than trees, are increasing in abundance even in rainforests that have not experienced apparent changes in weather patterns.

Lianas climb trees to reach the forest canopy where their leaves blot out the sunlight required for tree growth. They account for up to 25 percent of the woody plants in a typical tropical forest, but only a few percent of its carbon. They do not compensate for displaced carbon due to relatively low wood volume, low wood density and a high rate of turnover.

Machetes in hand, Schnitzer and colleagues chopped lianas out of forest plots for this study. After collecting eight years of data comparing liana-free plots with naturally liana-filled plots in the same forest, they quantified the extent to which lianas limited tree growth, hence carbon uptake. In gaps created by fallen trees, lianas were shown to reduce tree biomass accumulation by nearly 300 percent. Findings by Schnitzer and colleagues, also published this year in Ecology, showed that liana distribution and diversity are largely determined by forest gaps, which is not the case for tropical trees.

Arid conditions in gaps are similar to recently reforested areas. "The ability of lianas to rapidly invade open areas and young forests may dramatically reduce tropical tree regeneration — and nearly all of the aboveground carbon is stored in trees," said Schnitzer. Lianas have been shown to consistently hinder the recruitment of small trees, and limit the growth, fecundity and survival of established trees.

"Scientists have assumed that the battle for carbon is a zero-sum game, in which the loss of carbon from one plant is balanced by the gain of carbon by another. This assumption, however, is now being challenged because lianas prevent trees from accumulating vast amounts of carbon, but lianas cannot compensate in terms of carbon accumulation," said Schnitzer. "If lianas continue to increase in tropical forests, they will reduce the capacity for tropical forests to uptake carbon, which will accelerate the rate of increase of atmospheric carbon worldwide."

###

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. Website: http://www.stri.si.edu.

Sean Mattson | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Ecology biomass forests gaps lianas tropical tropics

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How to detect water contamination in situ?
22.09.2016 | Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU)

nachricht Quantifying the chemical effects of air pollutants on oxidative stress and human health
12.09.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

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: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

Im Focus: Launch of New Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing

At AKL’16, the International Laser Technology Congress held in May this year, interest in the topic of process control was greater than expected. Appropriately, the event was also used to launch the Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing. The group provides a forum for representatives from industry and research to initiate pre-competitive projects and discuss issues such as standards, potential cost savings and feasibility.

In the age of industry 4.0, laser technology is firmly established within manufacturing. A wide variety of laser techniques – from USP ablation and additive...

Im Focus: New laser joining technologies at ‘K 2016’ trade fair

Every three years, the plastics industry gathers at K, the international trade fair for plastics and rubber in Düsseldorf. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will also be attending again and presenting many innovative technologies, such as for joining plastics and metals using ultrashort pulse lasers. From October 19 to 26, you can find the Fraunhofer ILT at the joint Fraunhofer booth SC01 in Hall 7.

K is the world’s largest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. As in previous years, the organizers are expecting 3,000 exhibitors and more than...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

ICPE in Graz for the seventh time

20.09.2016 | Event News

Using mathematical models to understand our brain

16.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stronger turbine blades with molybdenum silicides

26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Scientists Find Twisting 3-D Raceway for Electrons in Nanoscale Crystal Slices

26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Lowering the Heat Makes New Materials Possible While Saving Energy

26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>