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Through enhanced tree dynamics carbon dioxide enrichment may cause tropical forests to lose carbon

Journal Article

Korner C

‚Äč

2004

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Soceity of London B

359

493-498

The fixation and storage of C by tropical forests which contain close to half of the globe\s biomass C may be affected by elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration. Classical theoretical approaches assume a uniform stimulation of photosynthesis and growth across taxa. Direct assessments of the C balance either by flux studies or by repeated forest inventories also suggest a current net uptake although magnitudes sometimes exceed those missing required to balance the global C cycle. Reasons for such discrepancies may lie in the nature of forest dynamics and in differential responses of taxa or plant functional types. In this contribution I argue that CO2 enrichment may cause forests to become more dynamic and that faster tree turnover may in fact convert a stimulatory effect of elevated CO2 on photosynthesis and growth into a long-term net biomass C loss by favouring shorter-lived trees of lower wood density. At the least this is a scenario that deserves inclusion into long-term projections of the C relations of tropical forests. Species and plant functional type specific responses (\biodiversity effects\) and forest dynamics need to be accounted for in projections of future C storage and cycling in tropical forests.

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The Liana Ecology Project is supported by Marquette University and funded in part by the National Science Foundation.