New research has assessed the impact of global warming on thousands of tree species across the Amazon to discover the winners and losers from 30 years of climate change. The analysis found the effects of climate change are altering the rainforest’s composition of tree species but not quickly enough to keep up with the changing environment.
In particular, the study found the most moisture-loving tree species are dying more frequently than other species and those suited to drier climates were unable to replace them.
Lead author Dr Adriane Esquivel Muelbert, from the School of Geography at Leeds, said: “The ecosystem’s response is lagging behind the rate of climate change. The data showed us that the droughts that hit the Amazon basin in the last decades had serious consequences for the make-up of the forest, with higher mortality in tree species most vulnerable to droughts and not enough compensatory growth in species better equipped to survive drier conditions.”
The team also found that bigger trees – predominantly canopy species in the upper levels of the forests – are outcompeting smaller plants. The team’s observations confirms the belief that canopy species would be climate change “winners” as they benefit from increased carbon dioxide, which can allow them to grow more quickly. This further suggests that higher carbon dioxide concentrations also have a direct impact on rainforest composition and forest dynamics – the way forests grow, die and change.