Impacts of Climate Change on Tropical Rainforests’ Adaptive Capacity and Ecological Plasticity

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A new chapter in the Semantic Books series has been published under the title:

Rainforests’ Adaptive Capacity and Ecological Plasticity.

Kuok Ho Daniel Tang

Department of Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Science, Curtin University Malaysia, 98009 Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia.

Abstract

Tropical rainforests are ecologically important because they sustain half of the global plant and animal species. For decades, rainforests have been suffering from the mounting pressure of land use conversion and climate change. With the exception of the African rainforest, most tropical rainforests have been extensively deforested (at rates three to four times higher than those seen in Africa). Projected temperature rise and rainfall decline across Amazonia, Western Congo Basin and parts of the Central America is expected to result in progressive displacement of the cleared forest with savanna and grassland vegetation. Warming of the Northeastern Australia is foreseen to be detrimental to endemic vertebrates, causing mass extinctions. Higher rainfall projected in Southeast Asia may lead to higher mortality of dipterocarps. Biodiversity of the rainforest will also be adversely impacted by the increased occurrences of drought, fire and extreme weather events. Nonetheless, due to historical climate variations, tropical rainforests have developed adaptive capacity towards climate change. They have gradually altered the vegetative composition to increase the prevalence of drought-tolerant and deciduous species. The pressure to adapt has also driven the genetic diversity of tropical species. The African rainforest is deemed to have greater resilience due to more rapid shift in vegetative composition with changing climate and biomass recovery after logging. There is, however, a limit to the resilience of rainforests. Rising threats of climate change and land use conversion beyond the adaptive capacity of rainforests will necessitate human intervention through forest management, sustainable forestry practices and enforcement of forest laws.

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Impacts of Climate Change on Tropical Rainforests' Adaptive Capacity and Ecological Plasticity 2

About the Author

Daniel Tang Kuok HoDaniel Tang Kuok Ho is an expert in the field of environmental science and safety. He obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) and has worked in Curtin University (Malaysia) for 7 years. His research interests include climate change, health and safety, environmental management and sustainability.