An imperative need for global change research in tropical forests

Xuhui Zhou, Yuling Fu, Lingyan Zhou, Bo Li, Yiqi Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Tropical forests play a crucial role in regulating regional and global climate dynamics, and model projections suggest that rapid climate change may result in forest dieback or savannization. However, these predictions are largely based on results from leaf-level studies. How tropical forests respond and feedback to climate change is largely unknown at the ecosystem level. Several complementary approaches have been used to evaluate the effects of climate change on tropical forests, but the results are conflicting, largely due to confounding effects of multiple factors. Although altered precipitation and nitrogen deposition experiments have been conducted in tropical forests, large-scale warming and elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) manipulations are completely lacking, leaving many hypotheses and model predictions untested. Ecosystem-scale experiments to manipulate temperature and CO2 concentration individually or in combination are thus urgently needed to examine their main and interactive effects on tropical forests. Such experiments will provide indispensable data and help gain essential knowledge on biogeochemical, hydrological and biophysical responses and feedbacks of tropical forests to climate change. These datasets can also inform regional and global models for predicting future states of tropical forests and climate systems. The success of such large-scale experiments in natural tropical forests will require an international framework to coordinate collaboration so as to meet the challenges in cost, technological infrastructure and scientific endeavor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)903-912
Number of pages10
JournalTree Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • carbon
  • climate change
  • elevated CO
  • energy
  • tropical forests
  • warming
  • water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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