Climate Change and Forest Biological Diversity

Forests, by acting as a sink for greenhouse gases, help mitigate the effects of climate change. However forest biological diversity is also directly and indirectly impacted by changing climatic conditions. These changes question the degree to which forests will be able to continue sequestering greenhouse gases in the future.

In the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment it is reported that the amount of carbon stored in the world’s forests is between 335-365 billion tons. However land use change (largely resulting from deforestation) is hindering the carbon sequestration abilities of forests. As forest ecosystems are important sinks for carbon their loss has serious implications for climate change

Ecosystem and climate models suggest that climate change will have a variety of impacts on the distribution of forest organisms and populations as well as impact ecosystem function and composition. In general it is expected that habitats will shift towards the poles and move upwards in elevation. With the shift of these habitats, forest biodiversity will be forced to adapt and as a result species compositions in forests is likely to change and those species and populations which are already vulnerable will potentially become extinct. Further with climate change there will be a greater incidence of extreme climatic events, such as floods and droughts. These types of events will further affect forest plant and animal populations and can leave forests more prone to disturbances such as fire and disease

In general there is increasing evidence that forests will be greatly affected by climate change. Forest ecosystems, which are expected to be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, include mangroves, boreal and tropical forests.