African rainforests said to be resilient

Jan. 6, 2012 at 6:45 PM

OXFORD, England, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Tropical forests in Africa may be more resilient to future climate change than the Amazon and other regions, scientists at a conference in Britain heard.

The region's surviving tree species have endured a number of climatic catastrophes over the past 4,000 years and as a result they are better suited to cope with future shifts in the climate, Yadvinder Malhi, Oxford professor of ecosystems, told international researchers.

Malhi was speaking at a three-day conference at Oxford titled "Climate Change, Deforestation and the Future of African Rainforests."

Africa's climate had been far more variable than the Amazon or Southeast Asia over the past 10,000 years, he said.

"In some senses, African forests have gone through a number of catastrophes in the past 4,000 to 2,000 years," Malhi told BBC News.

"They are already much lower in diversity, and have lost species that would have been potentially vulnerable. But the species that remain are relatively adaptable, have broad ranges and have adapted to quite rapid changes in rainfall.

"So, overall, the remaining system -- although it may be poorer to some extent -- may be much more resilient to the pressures from climate change in this century," he said.

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