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      Committed changes in tropical tree cover under the projected 21 st century climate change

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          Warming and drought pose a serious threat to tropical forest. Yet the extent of this threat is uncertain, given the lack of methods to evaluate the forest tree cover changes under future climate predicted by complex dynamic vegetation models. Here we develop an empirical approach based on the observed climate space of tropical trees to estimate the maximum potential tropical tree cover (MPTC) in equilibrium with a given climate. We show that compared to present-day (2000–2009) conditions, MPTC will be reduced by 1 to 15% in the tropical band under equilibrium future (2090–2099) climate conditions predicted by 19 IPCC climate models. Tropical forests are found to regress or disappear mainly in the current transition zones between forest and savanna ecosystems. This climate pressure on tropical forests, added to human-caused land use pressure, poses a grand challenge to the sustainability of the world's largest biomass carbon pool.

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          Global hydrological cycles and world water resources.

          Water is a naturally circulating resource that is constantly recharged. Therefore, even though the stocks of water in natural and artificial reservoirs are helpful to increase the available water resources for human society, the flow of water should be the main focus in water resources assessments. The climate system puts an upper limit on the circulation rate of available renewable freshwater resources (RFWR). Although current global withdrawals are well below the upper limit, more than two billion people live in highly water-stressed areas because of the uneven distribution of RFWR in time and space. Climate change is expected to accelerate water cycles and thereby increase the available RFWR. This would slow down the increase of people living under water stress; however, changes in seasonal patterns and increasing probability of extreme events may offset this effect. Reducing current vulnerability will be the first step to prepare for such anticipated changes.
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            Determinants of woody cover in African savannas.

            Savannas are globally important ecosystems of great significance to human economies. In these biomes, which are characterized by the co-dominance of trees and grasses, woody cover is a chief determinant of ecosystem properties. The availability of resources (water, nutrients) and disturbance regimes (fire, herbivory) are thought to be important in regulating woody cover, but perceptions differ on which of these are the primary drivers of savanna structure. Here we show, using data from 854 sites across Africa, that maximum woody cover in savannas receiving a mean annual precipitation (MAP) of less than approximately 650 mm is constrained by, and increases linearly with, MAP. These arid and semi-arid savannas may be considered 'stable' systems in which water constrains woody cover and permits grasses to coexist, while fire, herbivory and soil properties interact to reduce woody cover below the MAP-controlled upper bound. Above a MAP of approximately 650 mm, savannas are 'unstable' systems in which MAP is sufficient for woody canopy closure, and disturbances (fire, herbivory) are required for the coexistence of trees and grass. These results provide insights into the nature of African savannas and suggest that future changes in precipitation may considerably affect their distribution and dynamics.
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              Climate change, deforestation, and the fate of the Amazon.

              The forest biome of Amazonia is one of Earth's greatest biological treasures and a major component of the Earth system. This century, it faces the dual threats of deforestation and stress from climate change. Here, we summarize some of the latest findings and thinking on these threats, explore the consequences for the forest ecosystem and its human residents, and outline options for the future of Amazonia. We also discuss the implications of new proposals to finance preservation of Amazonian forests.

                Author and article information

                Sci Rep
                Sci Rep
                Scientific Reports
                Nature Publishing Group
                06 June 2013
                : 3
                [1 ]College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University , Beijing 100871, China
                [2 ]Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research , Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
                [3 ]Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University , Princeton, N J 08544, USA
                [4 ]State Key Laboratory of Environmental Criteria and Risk Assessment , Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Beijing 100012, China
                [5 ]College of Water Sciences, Beijing Normal University , Beijing 100875, China
                [6 ]Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement , CEA CNRS UVSQ, 91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, France
                Author notes
                Copyright © 2013, Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit




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