A recent study has revealed that Amazonian plants are actually migrating to higher elevations to escape the rising temperatures at lower elevations due to climate change.
Tropical biologists Miles Silman and Ken Feeley are the lead scientists of the project monitoring this mass arboreal exodus, dubbed the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group, which has set up 20 one-hectare grids in the jungle of Peru to monitor these plants. Statistical analysis of these plots revealed the “tree-migration” phenomenon. The project has shown that younger generations of plants are spaced roughly 8 to 12 vertical feet apart from each previous generation.
If you think this seems like a lot of vertical feet, you’d be right, but these plants must continue to move to higher elevations if they are to survive climate change. And unfortunately, it appears that some are not moving fast enough. To reach the elevations at which temperatures are optimal, the plants would need to be moving 20 vertical feet per year. Biologists predict that a 7 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature (which is projected to occur before 2100) will cause the extinction of 50% of tropical species. The implications of this are grave, as we depend on rainforests to absorb greenhouse gases and recycle fresh water. Without these vital ecosystem services, global warming will accelerate.
This issue requires far more attention and funding than it has been getting. Rain forests in countries like Ecuador and Indonesia are extremely natural resource rich. It is for this reason that subsidies must be provided to countries so that they will protect the forests rather than exploit them for resources.