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Forests remember past warming events and are coping better today

Forests remember past warming events and are coping better today

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of scientists has assessed the impact of past and present climate change on global forest productivity.

The authors have chosen the most sensitive regions where forests are most at risk. An international team of scientists tested the hypothesis that forests that have survived more variable environmental conditions will be better prepared for the current climate change.

The authors of the paper analyzed global climate data for two 20-year periods: 1950–1969 and 2000–2019 to determine regional trends in climate variability. Records included monthly averages, minimum and maximum temperatures, total precipitation, and air humidity readings.

To estimate the productivity of today’s forests, the researchers used global vegetation data from NASA‘s MODIS satellites.

By collating this information, the scientists found that regions where temperatures were more variable in the past continue to experience greater temperature variability today. Forests in these regions tend to tolerate these conditions better.

Thus, past temperature variability has an impact on current forest productivity. Where temperature variability was 0.66°C greater than the global average, forests were 19 times less sensitive to current temperatures.

In addition, the authors showed that while climate models predict relatively modest overall warming in the tropics in the 21st century, year-to-year temperature variability will increase significantly.

Therefore, tropical forests may be more affected by the instability of conditions than by an increase in average temperature. In boreal forests, a very different picture is observed.

Conditions are also becoming unstable, but over the course of a year, the average temperature rises at least twice the global average.

Decades of warming trends, the effects of fires and insect infestations may threaten boreal forests more than unstable conditions.

Scientists have identified the most vulnerable areas of the forest. These include boreal forests in eastern North America, temperate forests in the south-central and southeastern United States, temperate forests in Asia, and rainforests in the southern Amazon.


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