Saturday, April 4, 2015

Interaction Between Rainforests and Climate Change

There are a few factors that can be seen in the relationship between the rainforests of the world and climate change. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air is 40% higher than what plants were taking up about 100 years ago. (Schiermeier) From my previous blog, we know that global climate change is the increase of the Earth’s atmospheric temperature due to the increased emission of carbon dioxide that is released into the air. We took a look at what climate change can do to the world’s oceans, but the focus of this blog is to see what’s happening on land, and specifically in the rainforests of the world.

Rainforests, both tropical and temperate, are actually very beneficial to us in the fight to decrease carbon dioxide into the air. In the carbon cycle, the trees of the rainforest are known to pull the main greenhouse gas (CO2) out of the air and hold the carbon in their wood as well as the soil that they are rooted in; carbon is then turned into sugar for the plant. (Gillis) The stored carbon is what’s helpful. Sounds like the perfect picture, right? So why do we have a problem? Not only are people getting rid of the one source that can help in capturing the carbon in the atmosphere, but they are re-releasing carbon back into the atmosphere when they go into rainforests and destroy the land. Climate change is the one thing that is making it harder for rainforests to help slow down… well… climate change. Due to the increase in carbon dioxide in the air, this is causing the atmosphere to become warmer and the environment to become drier; the change in these conditions is what is killing off the trees and other plants in the rainforest. Studies suggest that by the year 2050, “temperatures in the Amazon will increase by 2-3°C. At the same time, a decrease in rainfall during dry months will lead to widespread drying.” (Pratginestos) Dead trees don’t absorb CO1, and their stored carbon is released as their biomass is decomposed.

Loss/Gain forest cover in the last decade (Gillis

Rising temperatures and dryer conditions aren’t the only things killing off the rainforests and affecting climate change. Another major factor that goes into the relationship between rainforests and climate change is deforestation. “Over time, humans have cut down or damaged at least three-quarters of the world’s forests, and that destruction has accounted for much of the excess carbon that is warming the planet.” (Gillis) Cleared forest lands also have the potential to absorb more heat energy than the forest lands that were there before. A farmland in Europe that practices “no-till” farming has come to realize that the plants that grow from their no-till technique (seeding before plowing) have the potential to decrease the atmospheric temperature in the area. This is because the “effect is driven by the increased fraction of sunlight that the soil reflects back into space… which reduces the amount of the Earth’s surface absorbed from the Sun.” (Morello) Knowing that more plants on the ground can reduce the amount of heat that the Earth is absorbing is a strong argument as to why the rainforests need to not be destroyed; the more rainforests there are, the cooler the environment/atmosphere will be, and it will decrease the affects of climate change.

It is now evident how we’re losing the rainforests: deforestation, temperature increasing, drier atmosphere, and other factors of climate change including climate change, itself. If these effects continue to happen at the scale that they are currently happening at: 

  •  Coast redwood could lose up to 23% of its current distribution as the climate changes more drastically in the southern rainforest region. 
  • Alaska yellow-cedar could lose up to 21% of its current distribution and already is experiencing extensive dieback from warming and reduced snow pack. (SitNews

Some countries have made the effort to make sure that they are cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions. Others have even proposed protection laws, and have pushed regrowth of the rainforests. According to a New York Times article (Gillis), Brazil has done more than any other country to limit the emissions leading to global warming. In the same article, it is started that leaders of other countries encourage forest regrowth in attempts to balance out the human impact on global climate change. I don’t think proposing protection laws on the rainforests as well as attempting to regrow the regions that have lost the rainforests are such bad ideas. For the amount of work the trees do for the planet in reducing the effects of climate change, it’s evident why the rainforests need to be preserved. The more rainforests that we lose, the worse the global climate change issue will get. 

Gillis, Justin. "Restored Forests Breathe Life Into Efforts Against Climate Change." The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Dec. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.

Morello, Lauren. "Unploughed Fields Take Edge off Heatwaves." Nature Publishing Group, 23 June 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.

Pratginestos, Juan. "Climate Change in the Amazon." WWF. WWF, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

Schiermeier, Quirin. "Climate Change Crisis for Rainforests." Nature Publishing Group, 5 Mar. 2009. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.

"Scientists Warn Climate Change Is Threatening World's Most Expansive Temperate Rainforests." SitNews. Ed. Mary Kauffman. SitNews, 3 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.

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