The Amazon rainforest is losing the race with climate change as trees struggle to adapt to drier conditions fast enough to keep up with global warming.
A team led by Leeds University along with international scientists found that the trees in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, are dying and that tree growth has declined since the 1980s.
Researchers found that the Amazon rainforest is adapting to drier conditions, but not at a rate fast enough to keep up with the changing environment.
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International scientists led by a team from the University of Leeds found that moisture-loving trees are dying at a faster rate than other species, mostly because of climate change
The team studied individual trees and used long-term records for the past two decades to track their lives across the Amazon basin.
They found that moisture-loving trees had been dying at a faster rate than other species and are not being replaced by trees more suited to dry climates.
Experts believe that devastating damage to the tropical forest was due to being strongly affected by severe droughts, the effects of which persist for decades.
Dr Adriane Muelbert, from the University of Leeds’ School of Geography, said that the ecosystem’s response is lagging behind the rate of climate change.
‘The data showed us that the droughts that hit the Amazon basin in the last decades had serious consequences for the make-up of the forest, with higher mortality in tree species most vulnerable to droughts and not enough compensatory growth in species better equipped to survive drier conditions.’
The Amazon rainforest is adapting to drier conditions, but not at a rate fast enough to keep up with the changing environment
But, the study found that bigger trees are benefiting from more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which may allow them to grow more quickly
However, the team found that there were climate change winners as well as losers.
Bigger trees, predominantly canopy species, were out-competing smaller plants.
They are thought to be benefiting from more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which may allow them to grow more quickly.
In addition ‘pioneer’ trees – trees that quickly spring up and fill gaps left when trees die – were doing relatively well.
The data showed us that the droughts that hit the Amazon basin in the last decades had serious consequences for the make-up of the forest
The team recorded the trees since the 1980’s to track the lives of individual trees across the Amazon basin. The data showed that the droughts that hit the Amazon basin in the last decades had serious consequences for the make-up of the forest
Co-author Dr Kyle Dexter, from the University of Edinburgh, added: ‘The impact of climate change on forest communities has important consequences for rainforest biodiversity.
‘The species of trees most vulnerable to droughts are doubly at risk, as they are typically the ones restricted to fewer locations in the heart of the Amazon, which make them more likely to be extinct if this process continues.
‘Our findings highlight the need for strict measures to protect existing intact rainforests.
‘Deforestation for agriculture and livestock is known to intensify the droughts in this region, which is exacerbating the effects already being caused by global climate change.’
The research is reported in the journal Global Change Biology.
The Amazon rainforest has been a big subsidy from nature because they take up a significant amount of our carbon dioxide emissions
The finding shows that the process is saturating. Trees in the Amazon are dying at a faster rate than they ever have and not being replaced by those more suited to dry climates
Co-author f the report Dr Kyle Dexter says that the findings highlight the need for strict measures to protect existing intact rainforests
Deforestation, which intensifies the droughts is exacerbating the effects already being caused by global climate change in the region
TROPICAL FORESTS EMIT MORE CARBON DIOXIDE THAN THEY STORE DUE TO DEFORESTATION
Tropical forests have been so damaged by humans that they now pollute the planet more than they protect it.
The planet’s forests and oceans are vital ‘carbon sinks’ which prevent polluting gases reaching our atmosphere.
The massive Amazon forest alone sucks up 600 million tons of carbon emissions a year.
But a new study found that so many trees have been lost from tropical forests that they now produce more carbon than they absorb.
This is due to the massive logging industry, farmers felling trees for fuel, forest fires and disease.
The researchers calculated the net amount of carbon sent into the atmosphere by these trees after they are burned or die.
They found, subtracting the carbon they store, that tropical forest trees produce 425 teragrams of carbon a year.