Can tropical Montane forest Acclimate to high temperature? Montane-Acclim

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

Tropical forests play a critical role in global water, carbon and nutrient cycles, and currently absorb billions of tonnes of carbon, thus reducing rates of climate change. For this reason, computer models that are used to predict future climate change and the impacts of climate on plants and ecosystems, need to be able to represent tropical forest very well. In fact, the response of tropical forests to changes in temperature is one of the greatest uncertainties in climate change prediction. However, currently, scientists do not understand how these forests will respond to increasing temperatures. This is worrying because temperatures are increasing faster today than in the past, forcing forests to respond to unprecedented rates of warming. Critically, the lack of seasonal changes in temperature may mean that trees growing in these regions have a reduced capacity to deal with rapid climate change compared with more temperate and high-latitude species. If this is the case, then global warming may represent a considerable threat to these forests, the amazing amounts of biodiversity that they contain, and their role in reducing current rates of climate change. However, this suggestion is yet to be tested formally.

The lack of understanding is even more worrying for tropical forest growing in mountains, as in these areas temperatures are increasing faster than in the lowlands. For example, scientists studying Andean forest in Colombia and Peru have observed that some tree species native to high elevations are dying out while others are moving to higher elevations. These scientists have suggested that these observations may be explained by the fact that trees are already seeing the impacts of climate change and are not able to withstand current temperatures. However, this explanation remains controversial and has not been tested formally. The major goal of this project is to determine if tropical Andean species can tolerate current temperatures and adjust to withstand the higher temperatures expected for the future. To answer this question, we will plant trees from high elevations in the Colombian Andes in their home environment but also at two lower elevations where temperatures are 5oC and 9oC higher, respectively. Our trees will be all planted in common soils and will have access to plenty of water, eliminating potential differences in water and nutrient access. We will monitor photosynthesis, respiration and growth at the three locations in other to understand how they respond to temperature. Compared to other experiments, our study is unique as it will: i) be the first to investigate the ability of large 3 - 4m tall trees planted in a common soil to respond to long-term (3 year) changes in temperature, ii) investigate a much greater number of species than all other field studies on this subject, and iii) measure a more complete set of key physiological and growth responses than in any other experiment.

The measurements taken will be used to the derive mathematical equations that can represent the response of these tree montane species to elevated temperatures. Furthermore, to predict the response of tropical forest everywhere in the world to higher temperatures, we need data from high and low elevations in as many locations as possible. Scientists around the world are now starting to collect some of these measurements in forests from Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Panama, Brazil, Peru, Rwanda and Australia. Although, no one of these investigations is as detailed as our study, by teaming up with all these groups we can use their data to test and extrapolate our equations across all tropics globally. We will then introduce these mathematical equations into a computer model to predict future behavior of the tropical forest under warming conditions. The outcome will represent a step change in our ability to accurately predict how this critically important biome will respond to global warming.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from the proposed research and how
Our project is of relevance to the IPCC community & international climate change policy, local stakeholders, conservation bodies,local policy makers, NGO's, educational institutions and the general public.

IPCC, IPBES & international climate change policy Future climate model projections form the basis of Working Group One and reducing uncertainty in climate projections is core to development of the Earth System Model (ESM) used in IPCC reports. This project will provide information on temperature responses of tropical forests, a key uncertainty in current ESM projections. Future projections from our project, with improved representation of thermal tolerance in JULES (the land surface model of the UK ESM) are thus highly relevant to future IPCC reports. IPCC reports influence climate policy, therefore our results indirectly impact on International climate change policy. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will also benefit from the results of this project as we will provide key information on the range of sensitivities to high temperatures for Andean tree species which can inform basis for future biodiversity of the region.

Local stakeholders, policymakers and NGO's
The Andean mountains provide key ecosystem services to a large portion of Colombian society living in the highlands such as freshwater for drinking and hydroelectricity production. Therefore, the main stakeholders in this project are the hydroelectricity generators ISAGEN, EPM, ENGESA, URRA & CHIVOR; and EPM, the regional energy and water supplier. Two local regional governmental institutions, CORNARE and CORANTIOQUIA, are responsible for local environmental policy and regulations. Their remit includes forest conservation, environmental licenses and permits, reforestation, improved models of climate change predictions for Colombia, tools to assess risks & threats of climate change to ecosystem services, wood production and biodiversity, and tools to design climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Conservation and biodiversity is also within the remit of some local and international NGO's with offices in Colombia. They will benefit from the information we will provide on which forest native species are least and most vulnerable to warming to inform their planning for reforestation, adaptation and mitigation. Additionally, our project will ultimately improve predictions of climate change, which will also inform policy and promote societal adaptation in high altitude tropical regions in the Andes.

Local capacity building
Educational institutions and more specifically the future generation of researches in Colombia will benefit from learning the methodologies used in this project. In order to plan adaptation and mitigation to climate change it is vital first to assess the impacts and threats to ecosystems services and therefore society. Through our project we will build the capacity needed to do this through working with the next generation of scientists (Master to PhD level). They will benefit from learning new methods and techniques to assess climate change impacts on Andean forest in countries like Colombia of low-intermediate income, which is central to the adaptation to climate change agenda.

The general public in Colombia
Overall, climate change will have a direct impact on the population who depend on the drinking water and electricity generated with water from the Andean mountains of Colombia.Since 80% of land has been deforested in the Colombian Andes, conservation of the remaining forest is of paramount importance, e.g. for freshwater and biodiversity. The general public including school children living close to the forest, the local indigenous community, landowners and farmers will benefit from our impact activities by gaining better understanding of the importance of conserving the forest.
 
Description This is a 5 year project that started in Sept 2017 however due to delays with hiring and logistics of planting etc, trees only got planted in nov 2018 ( one year delay).
We have now two years worth of experimental data on sapling growth across 3 experimental sites and meteorological data since October 2019.
In terms of survival we find that the only cloud forest species species that have survived a 12 degree temperature change are the ones are of warm origin, i.e evolutionary origin is from the Amazon. We observed clear thermal acclimation of those species, i. growing best at our warmest experimental site. This results have implications for restoration, as depending on where restoration will take place, our results show that many of these species won't survive a 10C temperature increase, however the 4 e Inga species would be suitable in many locations.
Most of the species survived (except two ) at +8 C (mid elevation) so far, so this information again is already very useful to provide advise on restoration. . We think one of the species is very sensitive to drought despite watering. We will investigate causes of mortality to test our hypotheses.

-Our results so far also suggest that responses to temperature are very much species specific, so it is not possible to generalise results from one species to the whole system itself.

-Results from analysis on photosynthetic and respiratory traits, foliar structure and growth demonstrate that for non-inge species, growth reductions with increased warming can not be explained by photosynthesis, respiration or structural traits. Six out of the eight species that have perform best at our mid elevation site are mostly isoprene emitters while species that have performed worst are not. Isoprene emitters in the Andes have been demonstrated to have higher thermal tolerance. In contrast, all individuals of one isoprene emitting species with low stomatal conductance have died at the mid elevation site. We think/ hypothesise that the ability of species to survive and grow is related to their ability to tolerate heat stress.

The main plant physiology campaign will take place in summer 2021 and we expect to test the hypothesis of thermal acclimation of temperature response of photosynthetic capacity of dominant Andean species
Exploitation Route Still at early stage however one of the Colombian partners, Prof Juan Camillo Villegas put forward an application to the Colciencias the NERC equivalent in Colombia, using a similar set up to the one of this project to study drought. I think this is a good spin off, of this project not directly related and I am not involved.

Project title is Drought impacts on dominant species in the tropical Andean Forest and its relationship with ecosystem functioning
Project duration 36 months
Project budget £116k
Project PI Assoc/Prof Juan Camillo Villegas (current project parter of this project)
Funder : Conciencias, Colombia
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Energy,Environment,Other

 
Description We have engaged with the indigenous community living nearby our high elevation site - At the start of the project we attended a meeting on which the whole community was present, the project was explained. We take measurements every month and they help during this field campaigns -We have hired people from the community to help with the work. 10 local people have been trained to take masurements (7 males & 3 females) -We have booked the food with local people and have varied so different people can benefit - Training to local students from Medellin city (from University of Antioquia) on allometric measurements on trees from our study sites, 5 students (3 women & 2 men) -Specialised training on measuring photosynthesis 1 PhD student from University of Antioquia 1 professor form University of Antioquia 2 UK students, one PhD one MSC -Specialised training on soil respiration measurements two local students, one PhD student and one MSc We also engaged with local news paper (twice) and two pieces on the project have appeared and appeared in the local news paper named 'El Colombiano' this is the most widely read news paper on the Antioquia county/department in Colombia. The most recent piece appeared on Sunday 1st of March 2020. The original outlet is the University of Antioquia news paper named Alma Mater which gets printed and circulated inside the regional news paper on Sundays. Here the link to Alma mater article about our project http://www.udea.edu.co/wps/portal/udea/web/inicio/udea-noticias/udea-noticia/!ut/p/z1/zZVRb5swEMe_yvbQR8sHGOI8UpoRdVlIWmgav0yOcVZvYFOgZN2nn9EqTWuUsKlCGg9g4__97nw--TDD95hp3qkvvFVG88LOtyz4TKeR64QEFhCQAMJgRfyJG3vpHeDNK8FHx4dwPVst0yRaXV27mNnl5dqfOW4EizhOJrCOEie5vbqZx6n7Yg8nnhD-zv6MgJ2P_w4zzIRuq_YBbytTt7x4yiW_AN78OXswpfw17t_vtGmVULy5AGF0K7XKTa_6_buStTK5EoYXJS95K2u7Lgplh7xuJBIF7yRqnqyuU53U1grxemcK2SCuc6VN04dWCZXj7U46-1zsCXJo7iKSkwBxQSUC7gVTwiWB6e7oKI72ys5netP7O02gc_e1gAL9YE87XcxI9gkg8Y8Ix-UwFMXW7mJyKgYPCN50Sh5wpk1d2gK9_cckzQc9-G_0MICfjIqP3XHxzrh4b1Q8DcbFj1s5dNzKSci4-HFzT-CN-OuhRmE7ofr6-MhC2y76G_97i-__t35RlVmWldR7Rt9u5j8ulyiOdvSQ7suBz_MhfP8TKO7XUA!!/dz/d5/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/?page=udea.inicio.udea.noticias.noticia&urile=wcm%3Apath%3A%2FPortalUdeA%2FasPortalUdeA%2FasHomeUdeA%2FUdeA%2BNoticias%2FContenido%2FasNoticias%2FPeriodicoAlmaMater%2Faclimatarse-clave-supervivencia-arboles-andinos
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description FAPESP-NERC South American Montane Forests in a Warming World
Amount £39,433 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R00532X/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 01/2020
 
Description The Fate of Andean Forest in a warming world
Amount £85,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NERC GW4 DTP 640006674 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 06/2022
 
Title Data from: Small tropical forest trees have a greater capacity to adjust carbon metabolism to long-term drought than large canopy trees 
Description The response of small understory trees to long-term drought is vital in determining the future composition, carbon stocks and dynamics of tropical forests. Long-term drought is, however, also likely to expose understory trees to increased light availability driven by drought-induced mortality. Relatively little is known about the potential for understory trees to adjust their physiology to both decreasing water and increasing light availability. We analysed data on maximum photosynthetic capacity (J max, V cmax), leaf respiration (R leaf), leaf mass per area (LMA), leaf thickness and leaf nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations from 66 small trees across 12 common genera at the world's longest running tropical rainfall exclusion experiment and compared responses to those from 61 surviving canopy trees. Small trees increased J max, V cmax, R leaf and LMA (71%, 29%, 32%, 15% respectively) in response to the drought treatment, but leaf thickness and leaf nutrient concentrations did not change. Small trees were significantly more responsive than large canopy trees to the drought treatment, suggesting greater phenotypic plasticity and resilience to prolonged drought, although differences among taxa were observed. Our results highlight that small tropical trees have greater capacity to respond to ecosystem level changes and have the potential to regenerate resilient forests following future droughts. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
URL http://datadryad.org/stash/dataset/doi:10.5061/dryad.547d7wm67
 
Description Collaboration with Smithsonian Tropical Institute in Panama 
Organisation Smithsonian Institution
Department Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Country Panama 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The collaboration is with Andrew Nottingham currently based at STRI. I provide the experimental set up and see below what the collaborator has been doing at my sites
Collaborator Contribution Andrew co-supervised an MSC student looking at acclimation of soil respiration at my sites (using external funding acquired from Australian National University via one of m Co-Is). Andrew participates in all field campaigns (every 4 months since Jan 2019) and has been training local students on protocol design, data collection, data analysis.
Impact None yet, the work is still on going
Start Year 2019
 
Description Collaboration with University of Antioquia 
Organisation University of Antioquia
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am the project lead and co-supervise a PhD student based at University of Antioquia that works on my project. Field sites of my project are being used data collection, some of it being new, with the work being supervised by the new partner.
Collaborator Contribution Prof Juan Camilo Villegas is now a project parter and the person in charge of managing my project, Ms Zorayda Restrepo is being supervised by Prof Villegas. Prof Villegas is also supervising an MSc student doing dissertation measurements taken at my sites. Prof Villegas contributed with his time during two weeks in the first field campaing He spends a fair amount of his time supervising the above students and communicating with me on issues about the project. He has engaged with local media and communicated the project which has been twice on the local newspaper (see impact section) Prof Villegas has submitted two funding applications, one as a follow up of this project to continue working on sites of this project and a second on his on at different locations to focus on drought. First, based on the idea of this project he applied to Colciencias the Colombian equivalent of NERC for a similar project based on a common garden approach to look at impacts of drought on dominant montane forest species. I am not involved on that. I see that as big impact of this project as provided him with example of a working project and methods to develop his own project. (36 months, ~£116k), he is waiting for the outcome Second. This is an application to U.S. Agency for International Development , I helped writing the proposal and I am Co-I,as this is to work on my study sites. It is to extend funding to continue maintenance and to do novel measurements at my experimental sites (24 months, £124k)
Impact Too early but link to yesterdays news article here http://www.udea.edu.co/wps/portal/udea/web/inicio/udea-noticias/udea-noticia/!ut/p/z1/zZVRb5swEMe_yvbQR8sHGOI8UpoRdVlIWmgav0yOcVZvYFOgZN2nn9EqTWuUsKlCGg9g4__97nw--TDD95hp3qkvvFVG88LOtyz4TKeR64QEFhCQAMJgRfyJG3vpHeDNK8FHx4dwPVst0yRaXV27mNnl5dqfOW4EizhOJrCOEie5vbqZx6n7Yg8nnhD-zv6MgJ2P_w4zzIRuq_YBbytTt7x4yiW_AN78OXswpfw17t_vtGmVULy5AGF0K7XKTa_6_buStTK5EoYXJS95K2u7Lgplh7xuJBIF7yRqnqyuU53U1grxemcK2SCuc6VN04dWCZXj7U46-1zsCXJo7iKSkwBxQSUC7gVTwiWB6e7oKI72ys5netP7O02gc_e1gAL9YE87XcxI9gkg8Y8Ix-UwFMXW7mJyKgYPCN50Sh5wpk1d2gK9_cckzQc9-G_0MICfjIqP3XHxzrh4b1Q8DcbFj1s5dNzKSci4-HFzT-CN-OuhRmE7ofr6-MhC2y76G_97i-__t35RlVmWldR7Rt9u5j8ulyiOdvSQ7suBz_MhfP8TKO7XUA!!/dz/d5/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/?page=udea.inicio.udea.noticias.noticia&urile=wcm%3Apath%3A%2FPortalUdeA%2FasPortalUdeA%2FasHomeUdeA%2FUdeA%2BNoticias%2FContenido%2FasNoticias%2FPeriodicoAlmaMater%2Faclimatarse-clave-supervivencia-arboles-andinos
Start Year 2019
 
Description Lecture to MSc students in Aalborg University in Denmark 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I gave a 2 hour guest lecture on the MSc level 'Global Change Biology' course at Aalborg University and presented the project during this lecture to master students in Biology and master students in Environmental Science.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.en.aau.dk/education/master/environmental-science/academic-content/
 
Description PI presented work at Gothenburg University in Sweden to a collaborator with a similar project in Rwanda 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I have a collaboration with Professor Johan Uddling from Gothenburg University. He is project parter of this project. He has a similar project to mine in Rwanda. I presented my project there to the aeroplane research group and we are looking to learn from each other. His PhD student is coming to participate on the field campaign of my project in summer 2020. We will use some common protocols. This has been a fruitful collaboration as I will incorporate some of their methods into my project & measuring campaign.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://airoplant.com
 
Description Participation of Colombian PhD student working on my project on workshop at local University in Colombia to present work from this project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact My PhD student based at the University of Antioquia in Colombia working on this project participated on a workshop on Ecology and forest conservation at a different university (Universidad Nacional) and presented her work from this project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation of local PhD student research project, this was in Colombia at the University of Antioquia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A local PhD student in Colombia from the University of Antioquia is doing her PhD based on my project which is based in Colombia
This was a meeting with the whole department (Staff and postgraduate students) to present the PhD research project
Audience was ~20 people
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation of local student in Colombia PhD work at symposium at an external University in Medellin 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was a presentation of our local PhD student working on our project at a symposium in Medellin (2 million city) at a symposia on ecology and plant conservation and pollinators.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019