Long-term thermal sensitivity of Earth’s tropical forests

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Authors

  • ForestPlots

Colleges, School and Institutes

Abstract

The sensitivity of tropical forest carbon to climate is a key uncertainty in predicting global climate change. Although short-term drying and warming are known to affect forests, it is unknown if such effects translate into long-term responses. Here, we analyze 590 permanent plots measured across the tropics to derive the equilibrium climate controls on forest carbon. Maximum temperature is the most important predictor of aboveground biomass (-9.1 megagrams of carbon per hectare per degree Celsius), primarily by reducing woody productivity, and has a greater impact per °C in the hottest forests (>32.2°C). Our results nevertheless reveal greater thermal resilience than observations of short-term variation imply. To realize the long-term climate adaptation potential of tropical forests requires both protecting them and stabilizing Earth's climate.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-874
Number of pages6
JournalScience
Volume368
Issue number6493
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas