Royal Society Publishing

Forest-climate interactions in fragmented tropical landscapes

William F. Laurance

Abstract

In the tropics, habitat fragmentation alters forest–climate interactions in diverse ways. On a local scale (less than 1 km), elevated desiccation and wind disturbance near fragment margins lead to sharply increased tree mortality, thus altering canopy–gap dynamics, plant community composition, biomass dynamics and carbon storage. Fragmented forests are also highly vulnerable to edge–related fires, especially in regions with periodic droughts or strong dry seasons. At landscape to regional scales (10–1000 km), habitat fragmentation may have complex effects on forest–climate interactions, with important consequences for atmospheric circulation, water cycling and precipitation. Positive feedbacks among deforestation, regional climate change and fire could pose a serious threat for some tropical forests, but the details of such interactions are poorly understood.

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