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Humans, not climate, pose risk to nature

Nov. 12, 2010 at 8:25 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- It's not global climate change that will have the most dramatic effect on the world's forests but human-led deforestation, a Washington research report found.

A study by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute concluded that ancient rainforests were able to cope with warming global temperatures and higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Climate scientists have warn that even slight increases in the average global temperature could push much of the world's forest toward extinction. However, Carlos Jaramillo, a researcher at the STRI, said his study found contradictions to the conventional wisdom.

"What we found was the opposite of what we were expecting," he was quoted in London's Guardian newspaper as saying. "We didn't find any extinction event (in plants) associated with the increase in temperature, we didn't find that the precipitation decreased."

His scientific team found that ancient plants adapted to environmental strains by becoming more efficient.

Jaramillo added that it wasn't global warming that spelled trouble for the world's ecosystems but human activity.

"Rather than global warming, the (trouble) for tropical plants is deforestation," he said. "The fossil record shows that, when you don't have humans around, the plants can deal with high temperatures and CO2."

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