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Tropical Forests and Global Atmospheric Change$
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Yadvinder Malhi and Oliver Phillips

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780198567066

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198567066.001.0001

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Ecophysiological and biogeochemical responses to atmospheric change

Ecophysiological and biogeochemical responses to atmospheric change

(p.57) CHAPTER 5 Ecophysiological and biogeochemical responses to atmospheric change
Tropical Forests and Global Atmospheric Change

Jeffrey Q. Chambers

Whendee L. Silver

Oxford University Press

There are several atmospheric changes that may affect physiological and biogeochemical processes in old-growth tropical forests. Elevated CO2 is likely to directly influence numerous leaf-level physiological processes. To assess potential ecosystem-level responses for a Central Amazon forest, an individual-tree-based carbon cycling model was used to carry out a model experiment constituting experimentally-observed tree growth rate increases linked to the known and expected increase in atmospheric CO2. The results suggested a maximum carbon sequestration rate of only 0.05 Mg C ha-1 yr-1 for an interval centred on 1980-2020. This low sequestration rate results from slow-growing trees and the long residence time of carbon in woody tissues. In contrast, changes in disturbance frequency, precipitation, and other factors can cause marked and relatively rapid losses and gains in ecosystem carbon storage. Observed changes in tropical forest inventory plots over the past few decades may be driven by changes in disturbance regimes and factors, rather than by a response to elevated CO2. Whether observed changes in tropical forests are the beginning of long-term permanent shifts or a transient response is still uncertain.

Keywords:   net ecosystem exchange, net ecosystem production, climate change, tropical trees, litter decomposition, nutrient limitation, carbon dioxide, disturbance frequency

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