Tropical Forest Slows Down

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Science  01 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5829, pp. 1255
DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5829.1255a

Tropical forests play a major part in the global carbon cycle. An understanding of the responses of tropical forests to climate change is an essential element in predicting the trajectory of global environmental change in the coming decades. Some studies have found increasing growth rates of trees, consistent with model predictions of CO2 fertilization. However, others have suggested that growth rates might decrease, consistent with models of the effects of increasing temperature on tree respiration. Feeley et al. analyzed two detailed long-term data sets from forest plots in Panama and Malaysia, to reveal growth rates of individual species and whole communities over the past 25 years. In both places, growth rates decreased in the majority of species, and this pattern was also reflected at the community level. These decreases correlated with increasing temperature over the same period, suggesting the potential for positive feedbacks between decreasing tree growth and increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. AMS

Ecol. Lett. 10, 461 (2007).

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