By Maitrayee Basu

Happy Valentines Day! As members of Rainforest Partnership, we want to share why we LOVE our rainforests and believe saving the lungs of our planet is our top priority.

But why should you love our rainforests as much as we do?

Well, tropical forests represent the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems, store large amounts of our carbon, and convert much of it to oxygen. The Amazon rainforest has between 6,000 to 16,000 tree species and they all contribute to the oxygen we breathe. Moreover, the Amazon has diverse plant species which are known for their medicinal properties as well as being a source of food for indigenous communities. Along with a plethora of insect and animal species, the Amazon is home to much of the life on our planet.  

Nonetheless, the Amazon is suffering due to persistent lengthening of the dry season. Climate change is threatening the tropical biodiversity as there is evidence of a widespread change in tree structure, productivity and mortality of the forest. These rapid changes are happening because carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has increased globally from 320 ppm to over 400 ppm in the past 50 years alone. Though CO2 is a fundamental source for photosynthesis and higher concentration of it can stimulate growth in trees, it can increase water-stress. Thus, we should hope that the Amazon can adapt to climate change.

So how have they adapted in the last 30 years of environmental change?

A recent study from the University of Leeds hypotheses is that “wetter areas tend to have more densely populated understory and taller forests are less sensitive to precipitation variability”.  Since lengths of drought have increased, these wetter areas are becoming increasingly dry and killing the understory plant species. “The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is expected to cause changes in species composition” which is likely to favor the trees that have greater competitive capacity to access light and water. There will be an increase in fast-growing and bigger trees, leading to a community where understory plants will go extinct or become rare. Larger trees have deeper roots, which means they have easier access to the water table and with water levels decreasing, these trees will be retrieving the majority of the water stored. With the drought intensity increase affecting the Amazon, there will be a shift in tree communities where more dry-affiliated trees will become abundant.

Rainforest seedlings growing in the understory, but they could soon be a rare sighting.

In doing so, the Amazon will consist of only sub-optimally adapted trees that have preferred the current climate space. These trees won’t have the same capability as the forests before them, thus changing the Earth’s atmosphere which we depend on as human beings. So this Valentine’s Day, give rainforests some love and join Rainforest Partnership in working tirelessly to give Amazon communities a sustainable life to live that allows them to protect their rainforest. Through our projects and your support, we can safeguard these important forests and create awareness about their role in producing the air we breathe and maintaining the climate we live in!

Reference:

University of Leeds. “Amazon forests failing to keep up with climate change.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181108091317.htm>.

Esquivel‐Muelbert, Adriane, et al. “Compositional Response of Amazon Forests to Climate Change.” The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, Wiley-Blackwell, 8 Nov. 2018, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.14413