LONDON, ENGLAND — The effects of climate change are altering the Amazon rainforest’s composition of tree species, but not quickly enough to keep up with the changing environment, according to a study released Thursday by the University of Leeds.
A team of more than 100 scientists, led by University of Leeds in collaboration with more than 30 institutions around the world, has assessed the impact of global warming on thousands of tree species across the Amazon rainforest, assessing the winners and losers from 30 years of climate change.
Since the 1980s, the effects of global environmental change, including stronger droughts, increased temperatures and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, have slowly affected the growth and mortality of specific tree species, according to the team.
The study found that the most moisture-loving tree species are dying more frequently than other species and those suited to drier climates are unable to replace them.
“The ecosystem’s response is lagging behind the rate of climate change,” said lead author Dr Adriane Esquivel Muelbert, from the School of Geography at Leeds.
The team also found that bigger trees are outcompeting smaller plants, suggesting that higher carbon dioxide concentrations also have a direct impact on rainforest composition and forest dynamics, meaning the way forests grow, die and change.
“Our findings highlight the need for strict measures to protect existing intact rainforests. Deforestation for agriculture and livestock is known to intensify the droughts in this region, which is exacerbating the effects already being caused by global climate change,” said co-author Dr Kyle Dexter, from the University of Edinburgh.