12 Nov 2010 09:11:08
Rainforests 'can cope with global warming'
Previous assumptions that rainforests could become extinct due to global warming have been challenged in a new study.
Conducted by The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and published in the journal Science, the report looked at plant remains embedded in rocks during a period called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, where carbon levels increased.
During this period world temperatures were increased by three to five degrees C for a period of around 200,000 years.
The researchers found that the forests could actually have been considered to thrive in these conditions, with new plants evolving much faster than existing species, leading to an increase in biodiversity.
Carlos Jaramillo said that evidence suggests plants are already capable of coping with increases in both temperatures and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
"What we found was the opposite to what we were expecting: we didn't find any extinction event [in plants] associated with the increase in temperature, we didn't find that the precipitation decreased," the Guardian quoted the expert as saying.
The findings perhaps contradict those of a study published in the same journal earlier this year, which suggested droughts in the southern hemisphere have decreased the ability of the world's forests to absorb CO2.