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Picture of the Day

Tropical treetops are warming, putting sensitive species at risk

The vaulted canopies that tower above Earth's rich tropical forests could be especially vulnerable to climate change-related temperature increases, according to a new report from National Science Foundation-funded researchers. In the study, scientists found temperatures in the forest canopies of Panama's Barro Colorado Island exceeded maximum air temperatures by as much as 7 degrees Celsius. Their results suggest that as air temperatures continue to climb, canopy temperatures could increase at a 40 percent higher rate -- a shift of potentially major consequence for tropical forest health. Tropical species like those in the canopies of Barro Colorado Island evolved to survive within a narrow range of equatorial temperatures and are therefore hypothesized by scientists to be especially sensitive to minute temperature change. For plant and animal species perfectly suited for survival within a narrow and stable range of temperatures, this kind of dramatic increase could cause considerable harm.

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