ScienceDaily (July 16, 2012) — At 130 million years old, the rainforests of Southeast Asia are the oldest in the world and home to thousands of plant and animal species, some endemic to these forests. The rainforests also play important roles in modulating regional rainfall as well in the global carbon cycle.
In a new study, Kumagai and Porporato combine extensive field observations, historical records, and global climate models to investigate the potential impact of rainfall shifts and droughts on tree mortality in the Bornean rainforests of Southeast Asia. They find that as El Niño events become more frequent in the future in response to warming in the tropical oceans, even the species of trees that can adapt to drought conditions will be at increased risk of dying off. The small number of species that cannot adapt well to drought conditions will be at even greater risk of dying .
Their study has implications for predictions of ecological changes, regional rainfall patterns, and global climate as well as direct applications for policies aimed at reducing additional human impacts on these ecosystems, which are not only vulnerable to climate change but also have the highest rates of deforestation in the whole world.
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