Forests are the carbon banks of the world, playing a vital role in absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and ensuring that ecosystems and soil are enriched and productive.
However, the forests of many Southeast Asian countries, including in Thailand, have undergone significant deforestation in recent decades, while the effects of climate change also mean that incidents of climatic water stress - such as droughts and rising temperatures – will become more frequent and severe in the future.
This double threat could lead to rising mortality in the tropical monsoon forests of Southeast Asia. This would mean lower biodiversity, worsening climate change, and damage to entire ecosystems, resulting in real-life effects on human well-being.
The CWSSEA (Climatic Water Stress – Southeast Asia) project will study the functioning of tropical forests, particularly secondary forests in Thailand, and assess how they will respond to climatic water stress and the potential impacts of future climate scenarios in these ecosystems.
This information will then assist in creating model predictions on the long-term scenarios of climate change impacts on forest ecosystem services, and influence future global policies to combat climate change.
The researchers will measure canopy transpiration, which is frequently used to estimate canopy stomatal conductance; a central variable in modeling the uptake of carbon by forests. Measurements will be made in both mature and secondary forests, which in turn will allow for the investigation of species-specific responses to water stress by assessing tree hydraulics and drought vulnerability of the dominant species in each forest type.
The team will also explore the degree of soil water partitioning among species within each forest to provide a more mechanistic understanding of how individual trees are able to overcome drought stress.
Taken together, this will be one of the first studies to quantify canopy transpiration, tree hydraulics and drought vulnerability as well as the mechanisms dominant tree species in both mature and secondary tropical forests use to overcome drought stress, which will provide the necessary information to more accurately predict how climate change will affect the carbon and water cycle in tropical forests.
The CWSSEA partners are:
- Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, www.chula.ac.th
- Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand, www.ku.ac.th
- National Science and Technology Development Agency, Pathum Thani, Thailand, www.nstda.or.th
- Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden, www.slu.se
- Bordeaux Sciences Agro, Bordeaux, France, www.agro-bordeaux.fr
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