PMCCPMCCPMCC

Search tips
Search criteria 

Advanced

 
Logo of transbThe Royal Society PublishingPhilosophical Transactions BAboutBrowse By SubjectAlertsFree Trial
 
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 March 29; 359(1443): 463–476.
PMCID: PMC1693326

Some aspects of ecophysiological and biogeochemical responses of tropical forests to atmospheric change.

Abstract

Atmospheric changes that may affect physiological and biogeochemical processes in old-growth tropical forests include: (i) rising atmospheric CO2 concentration; (ii) an increase in land surface temperature; (iii) changes in precipitation and ecosystem moisture status; and (iv) altered disturbance regimes. Elevated CO2 is likely to directly influence numerous leaf-level physiological processes, but whether these changes are ultimately reflected in altered ecosystem carbon storage is unclear. The net primary productivity (NPP) response of old-growth tropical forests to elevated CO2 is unknown, but unlikely to exceed the maximum experimentally measured 25% increase in NPP with a doubling of atmospheric CO2 from pre-industrial levels. In addition, evolutionary constraints exhibited by tropical plants adapted to low CO2 levels during most of the Late Pleistocene, may result in little response to increased carbon availability. To set a maximum potential response for a Central Amazon forest, using an individual-tree-based carbon cycling model, a modelling experiment was performed constituting a 25% increase in tree growth rate, linked to the known and expected increase in atmospheric CO2. Results demonstrated a maximum carbon sequestration rate of ca. 0.2 Mg C per hectare per year (ha(-1) yr(-1), where 1 ha = 10(4) m2), and a sequestration rate of only 0.05 Mg C ha(-1) yr(-1) for an interval centred on calendar years 1980-2020. This low rate results from slow growing trees and the long residence time of carbon in woody tissues. By contrast, changes in disturbance frequency, precipitation patterns and other environmental factors can cause marked and relatively rapid shifts in ecosystem carbon storage. It is our view that observed changes in tropical forest inventory plots over the past few decades is more probably being driven by changes in disturbance or other environmental factors, than by a response to elevated CO2. Whether these observed changes in tropical forests are the beginning of long-term permanent shifts or a transient response is uncertain and remains an important research priority.

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (467K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Amthor Jeffrey S. Direct effect of elevated CO(2) on nocturnal in situ leaf respiration in nine temperate deciduous tree species is small. Tree Physiol. 2000 Jan;20(2):139–144. [PubMed]
  • Amthor JS, Koch GW, Willms JR, Layzell DB. Leaf O(2) uptake in the dark is independent of coincident CO(2) partial pressure. J Exp Bot. 2001 Nov;52(364):2235–2238. [PubMed]
  • Bruhn Dan, Mikkelsen Teis N, Atkin Owen K. Does the direct effect of atmospheric CO2 concentration on leaf respiration vary with temperature? Responses in two species of Plantago that differ in relative growth rate. Physiol Plant. 2002 Jan;114(1):57–64. [PubMed]
  • Carey Eileen V, DeLucia Evan H, Ball J Timothy. Stem maintenance and construction respiration in Pinus ponderosa grown in different concentrations of atmospheric CO(2). Tree Physiol. 1996 Jan-Feb;16(1_2):125–130. [PubMed]
  • Chambers JQ, Higuchi N, Tribuzy ES, Trumbore SE. Carbon sink for a century. Nature. 2001 Mar 22;410(6827):429–429. [PubMed]
  • Chen Junye, Carlson Barbara E, Del Genio Anthony D. Evidence for strengthening of the tropical general circulation in the 1990s. Science. 2002 Feb 1;295(5556):838–841. [PubMed]
  • DeLucia EH, Hamilton JG, Naidu SL, Thomas RB, Andrews JA, Finzi A, Lavine M, Matamala R, Mohan JE, Hendrey GR, et al. Net primary production of a forest ecosystem with experimental CO2 enrichment . Science. 1999 May 14;284(5417):1177–1179. [PubMed]
  • Dixon RK, Solomon AM, Brown S, Houghton RA, Trexier MC, Wisniewski J. Carbon pools and flux of global forest ecosystems. Science. 1994 Jan 14;263(5144):185–190. [PubMed]
  • Farquhar Graham D, Roderick Michael L. Atmospheric science. Pinatubo, diffuse light, and the carbon cycle. Science. 2003 Mar 28;299(5615):1997–1998. [PubMed]
  • Fedorov AV, Philander SG. Is El Nino changing? Science. 2000 Jun 16;288(5473):1997–2002. [PubMed]
  • Gonzàlez-Meler Miquel A, Siedow James N. Direct inhibition of mitochondrial respiratory enzymes by elevated CO(2): does it matter at the tissue or whole-plant level? Tree Physiol. 1999 Apr;19(4_5):253–259. [PubMed]
  • Gonzalez-Meler MA, Ribas-Carbo M, Siedow JN, Drake BG. Direct Inhibition of Plant Mitochondrial Respiration by Elevated CO2. Plant Physiol. 1996 Nov;112(3):1349–1355. [PubMed]
  • Gray WM. Strong association between west african rainfall and u.s. Landfall of intense hurricanes. Science. 1990 Sep 14;249(4974):1251–1256. [PubMed]
  • Gu Lianhong, Baldocchi Dennis D, Wofsy Steve C, Munger J William, Michalsky Joseph J, Urbanski Shawn P, Boden Thomas A. Response of a deciduous forest to the Mount Pinatubo eruption: enhanced photosynthesis. Science. 2003 Mar 28;299(5615):2035–2038. [PubMed]
  • Hartmann Dennis L. Climate change. Tropical surprises. Science. 2002 Feb 1;295(5556):811–812. [PubMed]
  • Holmgren M, Scheffer M, Ezcurra E, Gutiérrez JR, Mohren GMJ. El Niño effects on the dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems. Trends Ecol Evol. 2001 Feb 1;16(2):89–94. [PubMed]
  • Houghton RA, Skole DL, Nobre CA, Hackler JL, Lawrence KT, Chomentowski WH. Annual fluxes of carbon from deforestation and regrowth in the Brazilian Amazon. Nature. 2000 Jan 20;403(6767):301–304. [PubMed]
  • Hubbell SP, Foster RB, O'Brien ST, Harms KE, Condit R, Wechsler B, Wright SJ, de Lao SL Light-Gap disturbances, recruitment limitation, and tree diversity in a neotropical forest . Science. 1999 Jan 22;283(5401):554–557. [PubMed]
  • Ishida Atsushi, Toma Takeshi, M Marjenah. Limitation of leaf carbon gain by stomatal and photochemical processes in the top canopy of Macaranga conifera, a tropical pioneer tree. Tree Physiol. 1999 Jun;19(7):467–473. [PubMed]
  • Jach M Ewa, Ceulemans Reinhart. Effects of elevated atmospheric CO(2) on phenology, growth and crown structure of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) seedlings after two years of exposure in the field. Tree Physiol. 1999 Apr;19(4_5):289–300. [PubMed]
  • Koch GW, Amthor JS, Goulden ML. Diurnal patterns of leaf photosynthesis, conductance and water potential at the top of a lowland rain forest canopy in Cameroon: measurements from the Radeau des Cimes. Tree Physiol. 1994 Apr;14(4):347–360. [PubMed]
  • Körner C, Arnone JA., 3rd Responses to elevated carbon dioxide in artificial tropical ecosystems. Science. 1992 Sep 18;257(5077):1672–1675. [PubMed]
  • Toogood GJ, Rankin AM, Tam PK, Morris PJ, Dallman MJ. The immune response following small bowel transplantation. II. A very early cytokine response in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Transplantation. 1997 Apr 27;63(8):1118–1123. [PubMed]
  • Laurance WF, Delamônica P, Laurance SG, Vasconcelos HL, Lovejoy TE. Rainforest fragmentation kills big trees. Nature. 2000 Apr 20;404(6780):836–836. [PubMed]
  • Lawton RO, Nair US, Pielke Sr RA, Welch RM. Climatic impact of tropical lowland deforestation on nearby montane cloud forests. Science. 2001 Oct 19;294(5542):584–587. [PubMed]
  • Mulkey SS, Smith AP, Wright SJ, Machado JL, Dudley R. Contrasting leaf phenotypes control seasonal variation in water loss in a tropical forest shrub. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1992 Oct 1;89(19):9084–9088. [PubMed]
  • Oren R, Ellsworth DS, Johnsen KH, Phillips N, Ewers BE, Maier C, Schäfer KV, McCarthy H, Hendrey G, McNulty SG, et al. Soil fertility limits carbon sequestration by forest ecosystems in a CO2-enriched atmosphere. Nature. 2001 May 24;411(6836):469–472. [PubMed]
  • Phillips OL, Gentry AH. Increasing turnover through time in tropical forests. Science. 1994 Feb 18;263(5149):954–958. [PubMed]
  • Phillips OL, Malhi Y, Higuchi N, Laurance WF, Nunez PV, Vasquez RM, Laurance SG, Ferreira LV, Stern M, Brown S, et al. Changes in the carbon balance of tropical forests: evidence from long-term plots . Science. 1998 Oct 16;282(5388):439–442. [PubMed]
  • Phillips Oliver L, Vásquez Martínez Rodolfo, Arroyo Luzmila, Baker Timothy R, Killeen Timothy, Lewis Simon L, Malhi Yadvinder, Monteagudo Mendoza Abel, Neill David, Núez Vargas Percy, et al. Increasing dominance of large lianas in Amazonian forests. Nature. 2002 Aug 15;418(6899):770–774. [PubMed]
  • Sage RF, Coleman JR. Effects of low atmospheric CO(2) on plants: more than a thing of the past. Trends Plant Sci. 2001 Jan;6(1):18–24. [PubMed]
  • Shukla J, Mintz Y. Influence of Land-Surface Evapotranspiration on the Earth's Climate. Science. 1982 Mar 19;215(4539):1498–1501. [PubMed]
  • Shukla J, Nobre C, Sellers P. Amazon deforestation and climate change. Science. 1990 Mar 16;247(4948):1322–1325. [PubMed]
  • Thomas RB, Strain BR. Root restriction as a factor in photosynthetic acclimation of cotton seedlings grown in elevated carbon dioxide. Plant Physiol. 1991 Jun;96(2):627–634. [PubMed]
  • Walther Gian-Reto, Post Eric, Convey Peter, Menzel Annette, Parmesan Camille, Beebee Trevor J C, Fromentin Jean-Marc, Hoegh-Guldberg Ove, Bairlein Franz. Ecological responses to recent climate change. Nature. 2002 Mar 28;416(6879):389–395. [PubMed]
  • Wielicki Bruce A, Wong Takmeng, Allan Richard P, Slingo Anthony, Kiehl Jeffrey T, Soden Brian J, Gordon CT, Miller Alvin J, Yang Shi-Keng, Randall David A, et al. Evidence for large decadal variability in the tropical mean radiative energy budget. Science. 2002 Feb 1;295(5556):841–844. [PubMed]

Articles from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society