Feeds

Global warming is actually good for rainforests, say boffins

+3°C, 1000ppm CO2 did jungles a world of good last time

Intelligent flash storage arrays

OK, so let's take it that global warming is coming: that temperatures are set to rise by easily 3°C by the end of the century. Disaster, right? The tropical rainforests - lungs of the planet - will die, CO2 levels will thus rise even faster, a runaway process will set in and planet Earth will be transformed into a baking lifeless hell.

Not so much, according to top boffin Carlos Jaramillo of the US Smithsonian Institution. Jaramillo, who works at the Smithsonian's Tropical Research centre, says that 60 million years ago temperatures were up to 5°C higher than now and atmospheric CO2 was running close to 1000 parts per million - way beyond the planet-busting thresholds set by the UN - and yet the rainforests flourished.

"It is remarkable that there is so much concern about the effects of greenhouse conditions on tropical forests," says Jaramillo's Smithsonian colleague Klaus Winter.

Scientists led by Jaramillo examined the fossil record of the Paleocene-Eocene jungles of Colombia and Venezuela. Their research is published today in leading boffinry mag Science. The boffins write:

We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms, added to the existing stock of low-diversity Paleocene flora. There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics. The tropical rainforest was able to persist under elevated temperatures and high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast to speculations that tropical ecosystems were severely compromised by heat stress.

"Rainforests were doing very well" during the high-carbon, significantly-hotter "thermal maximum" period studied by the scientists. They found that rather than making species extinct the warmth drove diversity and brought many new species into the world - including both passionflowers and chocolate.

So it would seem that even if temperatures do climb as many forecasters predict, the consequences may not be disastrous after all.

Jaramillo and his colleagues' paper, Effects of Rapid Global Warming at the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary on Neotropical Vegetation, can be read by Science subscribers here. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.