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Tropical rain forests being tested for the future

How will tropical rainforests cope with climate change?

Are there some types of tropical rainforest plants that will be severely harmed while others prosper?

To help answer these questions, a new experimental glasshouse facility has been constructed at James Cook University. Plants grown in the glasshouse will be exposed to elevated temperatures (+ 5 °C) and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (2 times ambient), i.e., to levels that may be reached by the end of this century. The altered environment is created inside the state-of-the-art glasshouse complex. The health of the tropical plants housed in the glasshouses will be studied from the seedling stage until the plants reach two to three meters in height. These experiments will inform us about the susceptibility of tropical plants to climate change and environmental stress, thereby providing a scientific basis to help decision makers plan for the future. The experiments will also highlight the enormous potential of controlled environment enclosures such as the new glasshouse facility as tools to study responses of tropical vegetation to atmospheric and climate change.



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