Global climate change may bring more frequent episodes of the kind of extreme heat and dryness experienced during the 1997-98 El Niño. For that reason forest ecologist Jim Kellner and graduate student Carlos Silva studied the long-term impact of that weather pattern on a tropical forest in Costa Rica, using thousands of measurements of the height of the forest canopy over 12 years. They report in the November issue of the journal Global Change Biology that canopy damage was more extensive in forest along well-drained slopes and plateaus while forest on lower lying soils was more robust. The data suggest that topography can help predict which areas of tropical forest may struggle under hot, dry conditions in the future. Kellner, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and lead author, Silva, came to Brown this summer from the University of Maryland. Kellner is also affiliated with the Environmental Change Initiative.
November 7, 2013