Long-living Tropical Trees Play Outsized Role in the Biomass and Carbon Storage

A group of trees that grow fast, live long and reproduce slowly account for the bulk of the biomass and carbon storage in some tropical rainforests, a team of scientists said in a paper published this week. These trees, called long-lived pioneers, play a much larger role in carbon storage than previously thought. This finding may have implications in efforts to preserve forests as a strategy to fight climate change.

In addition, the team found the composition of a tropical forest over time depends on how each tree species balances between two different sets of trade-offs: growth versus survival (for example, one type of tree might grow fast but die young) and stature versus reproduction (another might grow tall but reproduce leisurely). Plotting every species as a point on a graph based on where they fall along these two different axes to allow scientists to have a more sophisticated and accurate model than prior ones, which usually focused exclusively on the first of these two trade-offs or parametrized the groups by different means.


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