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Department of Plant Sciences

David Edwards on a field trip in the tropical rain forest in Borneo

Assumptions that tropical forest canopies protect from the effects of climate change are unfounded, say researchers

A new study, co-authored by Professor David Edwards, head of the Tropical Ecology and Conservation group, shows that crucial strongholds for biodiversity are under threat as temperatures are rising in tropical forests.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, used a microclimate model to examine temperatures beneath the rainforest canopy across the global tropics. 

This showed that between 2005 and 2019, most of the world’s undisturbed tropical forests experienced climate conditions at least partially outside the range of historic conditions. Many areas had transitioned to almost entirely new temperature averages.

David Edwards said "A severe risk is that species are no longer able to survive within tropical forests as climate change intensifies, further exacerbating the global extinction crisis and degrading rainforest carbon stocks."

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Reference: Trew, B.T. et al: ‘Novel temperatures are already widespread beneath the world’s tropical forest canopies.’ Nature Climate Change, June 2024. DOI: 10.1038/s41558-024-02031-0

Image: David Edwards, Professor of Plant Ecology and head of the Tropical Ecology and Conservation group, on fieldwork in Borneo