A global climate niche for giant trees

A global climate niche for giant trees Rainforests are among the most charismatic as well as the most endangered ecosystems of the world. However, although the effects of climate change on tropical forests resilience is a focus of intense research, the conditions for their equally impressive temperate counterparts remain poorly understood, and it remains unclear whether tropical and temperate rainforests have fundamental similarities or not. Here we use new global data from high precision laser altimetry equipment on satellites to reveal for the first time that across climate zones ‘giant forests’ are a distinct and universal phenomenon, reflected in a separate mode of canopy height (~40 m) worldwide. Occurrence of these giant forests (cutoff height > 25 m) is negatively correlated with variability in rainfall and temperature. We also demonstrate that their distribution is sharply limited to situations with a mean annual precipitation above a threshold of 1,500 mm that is surprisingly universal across tropical and temperate climates. The total area with such precipitation levels is projected to increase by ~4 million km2 globally. Our results thus imply that strategic management could in principle facilitate the expansion of giant forests, securing critically endangered biodiversity as well as carbon storage in selected regions. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Global Change Biology Wiley

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
ISSN
1354-1013
eISSN
1365-2486
D.O.I.
10.1111/gcb.14167
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Rainforests are among the most charismatic as well as the most endangered ecosystems of the world. However, although the effects of climate change on tropical forests resilience is a focus of intense research, the conditions for their equally impressive temperate counterparts remain poorly understood, and it remains unclear whether tropical and temperate rainforests have fundamental similarities or not. Here we use new global data from high precision laser altimetry equipment on satellites to reveal for the first time that across climate zones ‘giant forests’ are a distinct and universal phenomenon, reflected in a separate mode of canopy height (~40 m) worldwide. Occurrence of these giant forests (cutoff height > 25 m) is negatively correlated with variability in rainfall and temperature. We also demonstrate that their distribution is sharply limited to situations with a mean annual precipitation above a threshold of 1,500 mm that is surprisingly universal across tropical and temperate climates. The total area with such precipitation levels is projected to increase by ~4 million km2 globally. Our results thus imply that strategic management could in principle facilitate the expansion of giant forests, securing critically endangered biodiversity as well as carbon storage in selected regions.

Journal

Global Change BiologyWiley

Published: Jan 1, 2018

Keywords: ; ; ; ; ; ; ;

References

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