Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rainforests take the heat, paleontologists show

Date:
May 30, 2013
Source:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
Rainforests thrived during previous global warming events, say paleontologists.

Previous global warming events led to more diverse tropical forests. This is a view of the lowland tropical forest on Barro Colorado Island in Panama.
Credit: STRI

South American rainforests thrived during three extreme global warming events in the past, say paleontologists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in a new report published in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science. No tropical forests in South America currently experience average yearly temperatures of more than 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius). But by the end of this century, average global temperatures are likely to rise by another 1 F (0.6 C), leading some scientists to predict the demise of the world's most diverse terrestrial ecosystem.

Carlos Jaramillo, Cofrin Chair in Palynology, and Andrés Cárdenas, post-doctoral fellow, at the Smithsonian in Panama reviewed almost 6,000 published measurements of ancient temperatures to provide a deep-time perspective for the debate.

"To take the temperature of the past we rely on indirect evidence like oxygen isotope ratios in the fossil shells of marine organisms or from bacteria biomarkers," said Jaramillo.

When intense volcanic activity produced huge quantities of carbon dioxide 120 million years ago in the mid-Cretaceous period, yearly temperatures in the South American tropics rose 9 F (5 C). During the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, 55 million years ago, tropical temperatures rose by 5 F (3 C) in less than 10,000 years. About 53 million years ago, temperatures soared again.

According to the fossil record, rainforests prospered under these hothouse conditions. Diversity increased. Because larger areas of forest generally sustain higher diversity than smaller areas do, higher diversity during warming events could be explained by the expansion of tropical forests into temperate areas. "But to our surprise, rainforests never extended much beyond the modern tropical belt, so something other than temperature must have determined where they were growing," said Jaramillo.

Jaramillo and Cárdenas' report also refers to findings by Smithsonian plant physiologist Klaus Winter that leaves of some tropical trees tolerate short-term exposure to temperatures up to 122 F (5 C). When carbon dioxide concentrations double, trees use much less water, which is further evidence that tropical forests may prove resilient to climate change.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Carlos Jaramillo and Andrés Cardenas. Global Warming and Neotropical Rainforests, A Historical Perspective. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 41: (Volume publication date May 2013) [link]

Cite This Page:

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Rainforests take the heat, paleontologists show." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530132435.htm>.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2013, May 30). Rainforests take the heat, paleontologists show. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530132435.htm
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Rainforests take the heat, paleontologists show." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130530132435.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

Raw: Volcano Erupts on Papua New Guinea

AP (Aug. 29, 2014) — Several communities were evacuated and some international flights were diverted on Friday after one of the most active volcanos in the region erupts. (Aug. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) — State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Scientists Have Figured Out Why Rocks Move In Death Valley

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) — The mystery of the moving rocks in Death Valley, California, has finally been solved. Scientists are pointing to a combo of water, ice and wind. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

Big Waves, Minor Flooding from Hurricane

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) — Thundering surf spawned by Hurricane Marie pounded the Southern California coast Wednesday, causing minor flooding in a low-lying beach town. High surf warnings were posted for Los Angeles County south through Orange County. (Aug. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins