Effects of temperature and precipitation on vegetation structure

Department of Botany, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Gustavo Burin Ferreira

Gustavo Burin Ferreira

With human activities altering the Earth’s natural environments at an accelerating rate, it is important to understand how Earth’s living organisms will respond to the ensuing environmental changes. Plant species might be particularly susceptible to environmental changes as they lack the option of migrating to environments to which they are best adapted. Studies of non-perennial traits, such as leaves, phenological characters, and physiological rates have helped to reveal how the Earth’s vegetation is responding to the most recent changes in climatic conditions. However, it is difficult to extrapolate future climatic impacts from present responses, and it is also challenging to disentangle responses caused by anthropogenic climatic changes from those that would be occurring also under natural conditions. To address these questions, a longer record of how vegetation has changed in response to climatic conditions is needed: such a long-term record can be obtained by studying tree rings, and dendrochronology (from the Greek dendron = tree, chronos = time, and logos = knowledge) is a well-established science that can be used to infer growth rates under different environmental conditions. Guided by dendrochronological data for two tree species in Brazil, I will aim to incorporate temperature- and precipitation-dependence in an established model of plant growth developed by a former YSSP participant (Falster et al. 2010). The model will then be used to study how salient aggregate properties of vegetation, such as net primary productivity and total biomass, are expected to be affected by future changes in temperature and precipitation.

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Last edited: 24 March 2016

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