Mongabay.com is considered a leading source of information on tropical forests by some of the world's top ecologists and conservationists. TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: Imperiled Riches—Threatened Rainforests
Forest and savanna in Gabon
Forest and savanna in Gabon. Click image for more information. (Photo by R. Butler)

CLIMATE CHANGE THREATENS RAINFORESTS

By Rhett Butler   |  Last updated July 31, 2012

Global climate change initiated by global warming is expected to have wide-ranging effects for tropical rainforests (also see section 9). Changes in weather patterns, rainfall distribution, and temperature will result in the transformation of rainforest into drier forest in some areas and the conversion of other forms of forests into tropical forest. Should sea levels rise, large tracts of coastal lowland rainforest and enormous areas of mangrove forest will be affected. Additionally, though tropical forests and their species have lived through significant climate changes in the past (Pleistocene and Holocene epochs), they have less resilience to climate change in the future due to fragmentation and degradation from human activities. In response to global climate change, ecological communities will need to migrate, an effort that will be more difficult because of habitat alteration and fragmentation.

Climate models are still far from perfect, but recent simulations paint a mixed picture from tropical rainforests. In the Western Amazon, rainfall may increase, but the southern and eastern parts of the Amazon Basin are expected to experience higher temperatures and less rainfall. In Southeast Asia, warmer and drier conditions are projected for the island of Borneo. In contrast, parts of the African Sahel and coastal East Africa may have more precipitation. Most models project an increase in extreme weather with warming climate.


    More information on the impacts of climate change on forests >>

Global warming accelerates destruction of the Amazon
40 percent of the Amazon could be grassland by 2050
Global warming will cause local climates to shift and disappear
Global warming could cause catastrophic die-off of the Amazon
Global warming could trigger 8-degree temperature rise in the Amazon
Globalization could save the Amazon rainforest
Expansion of agriculture in the Amazon may impact climate
Amazon drought continues, worst on record
Amazon rainforest locks up 11 years of carbon dioxide emissions
Subtle threats could destroy the Amazon rainforest






Review questions:

  • How will climate change effect the distribution of rainforests?

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Continued / Next:

Debt




Other pages in this section:

A World Imperilled
Threats from Humankind
Economic Restructuring
Logging
Fires
Commercial Agriculture
Hydro, Pollution, Hunting
Debt
Consumption, Conclusion
- - - - -
References
References
References
References
References
Natural forces
Subsistence Activities
Oil Extraction
Mining
War
Cattle Pasture
Fuelwood, Roads, Climate
Population & Poverty

- - - - -
Kids version of this section
- Why are rainforests disappearing?
- Logging
- Agriculture
- Cattle
- Roads
- Poverty


Selection of information sources

  • Whitmore, T.C. in "Potential impact of climate change on tropical rain forest seedlings and forest regeneration," Climate Change Vol. 39, Issue 2-3 (429-438) 1998 suggests that today's fragmented forests may have less resilience to future climactic change because changes in cyclone occurrence and increased rainfall seasonality may effect seedling ecology.
  • The impact of climate change on tropical forests is further examined in Woodwell, G.M and Mackenzie, F.T., eds. Biotic Feedbacks in the Global Climactic System: Will the Warming Feed the Warming? New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.





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    Copyright Rhett Butler 1994-2013

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
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