Rainforest Resilience

Have you heard? 1,000 is the new 30!!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Like giant sponges, rainforests absorb carbon dioxide from the air. This benefits the whole planet! But weather conditions, such as droughts, can reduce this carbon uptake. 

In twenty-fifteen, a climate disruption pattern called an El Niño caused major droughts worldwide. We have data on how the Amazonian and Asian forests fared. But what about the African forests?

Amy Bennet from the University of Leeds and colleagues investigated one hundred plots of rainforest across six African countries. They measured growth parameters like tree height, diameter and number of leaves. Then they compared this data with measurements of the same trees from before El Niño.

So, how did the trees weather the weather?

El Niño stunted the growth of small trees in the rainforest. Overall, there was less carbon uptake. However, large, old, drought-resilient trees continued to get BIGGER! The total carbon uptake was still TWENTY TIMES higher than the Amazonian rainforest in a similar drought. 

Go hug a tree today! A huge, very old tree.

Reference: Bennett, A. C., Dargie, G. C., Cuni-Sanchez, A., Mukendi, J. T., Hubau, W., Mukinzi, J. M., Phillips, O. L., Malhi, Y., Sullivan, M. J. P., Cooper, D. L. M., Adu-Bredu, S., Affum-Baffoe, K., Amani, C. A., Banin, L. F., Beeckman, H., Begne, S. K., Bocko, Y. E., Boeckx, P., Bogaert, J., … Lewis, S. L. (2021, May 25). Resistance of African tropical forests to an extreme climate anomaly. PNAS. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2003169118.

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