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Biodiversity Crucial in Saving Amazon From Climate Change

Aug 30, 2016 06:07 AM EDT

Saving the Amazon Forest has been a topic of conversation for decades -- maintaining its biodiversity will help preserve it in the face of climate change.

Historically, biodiversity has mainly been a topic amongst conservationists and not amongst climate change experts. That is changing with a new study published in Nature Climate Change that concludes biodiversity is crucial in helping the Amazon Forest survive in harsher conditions brought on by climate change.

"Plant trait diversity may enable the Amazon forests, the world's greatest and maybe most fascinating tropical ecosystem, to adjust to some level of climate change -- certain trees dominant today could decrease and their place will be taken by others which are better suited for the new climate conditions in the future," lead-author of the study and PhD at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) Boris Sakschewski said in a press release.

"Biodiversity shows not to be a nice-to-have but indeed a must-have. We find it could be functional for the long-term survival of Earth's large reservoirs of biomass, such as the forests of the Amazon region."

The team of scientists created models to simulate how biodiversity affects individual tree growth.They found that the Amazon Forest was better able to adjust when there was a higher level of biodiversity through a process called "ecological sorting" as the Amazon was able to keep its function of absorbing more carbon than it releases.

This study's positive outcome depends on the level of climate change that the Amazon Forest experiences. Biodiversity is only an effective tool at combating climate change if the changing conditions are moderate.

Supposing we stay on the current climate change trajectory, the scientific models predict that less than 20 percent of the Amazon Forest will reap the benefits of biomass recovery that come from biodiversity.

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