Washington: Researchers have found that tropical ecosystems can generate significant carbon dioxide when temperatures rise, unlike ecosystems in other parts of the world.
The researchers discovered a temperature increase of just 1 degree Celsius in near-surface air temperatures in the tropics leads to an average annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide equivalent to one-third of the annual global emissions from combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation combined.
In tropical ecosystems carbon uptake is reduced at higher temperatures.
This finding provides scientists with a key diagnostic tool to better understand the global carbon cycle.
“What we learned is that in spite of droughts, floods, volcano eruptions, El Nino and other events, the Earth system has been remarkably consistent in regulating the year-to-year variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels,” Weile Wang, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, and lead author of the paper, said.
The study provides support for the “carbon-climate feedback” hypothesis proposed by many scientists.
This hypothesis asserts a warming climate will lead to accelerated carbon dioxide growth in the atmosphere from vegetation and soils.
Multiple Earth system processes, such as droughts and floods, also contribute to changes in the atmospheric carbon dioxide growth rate.
The new finding demonstrates observed temperature changes are a more important factor than rainfall changes in the tropics.
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.