Science & Technology

Climate change: Trees in tropical forests store less carbon in warmer years

A 21-year study of a patch of tropical forest shows that the trees produce less wood in years when temperatures are higher, suggesting these forests will mop up less carbon dioxide in future


23 November 2021

P3T3AG Black-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus) in rainforest canopy, La Selva Biological Research Station, Costa Rica

Rainforest canopy near La Selva Biological Research Station in Costa Rica

Greg Basco/ BIA/ Minden Pictures/Alamy

Trees in tropical forests grow more slowly in years when the nights are warmer than average or dry-season days are unusually hot, according to a 21-year study. This suggests such forests will grow less as the world warms due to climate change – potentially taking up less carbon dioxide from the air and exacerbating warming.

“For the first time, we have a window on what a whole tropical forest is doing,” says Deborah Clark at the University of Missouri-St Louis. …

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