The Effects of Rising Temperature on the Ecophysiology of Tropical Forest Trees

  • Martijn SlotEmail author
  • Klaus Winter
Part of the Tree Physiology book series (TREE, volume 6)


The response of tropical trees to rising temperatures represents a key uncertainty that limits our ability to predict biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks in a warming world. We review the current understanding of temperature effects on the ecophysiology of tropical trees from organelle to biome level, where we distinguish between short-term responses, acclimation, and adaptation. We present new data on short-term temperature responses of photosynthesis and dark respiration, and temperature acclimation of photosynthesis. We also compare new field and laboratory-obtained photosynthesis-temperature response data. We identify several priority study areas. (1) Acclimation: We need to better understand photosynthetic acclimation, for example to determine whether the adjustment of the thermal optimum of photosynthesis (TOpt) is consistently negated by a decrease in photosynthesis at TOpt, as we observed. (2) Growth: Whereas tropical seedlings may grow better with warming, canopy trees reportedly grow worse; we do not currently know what explains these contrasting temperature effects. (3) Reproduction: Tropical trees may be close to reproductive temperature thresholds, as heat sterility in crops occurs in the upper 30 °C range. Nonetheless, the temperature sensitivity of tropical tree reproduction is virtually unstudied. (4) Mortality: How does heat-induced atmospheric drought (high leaf-to-air vapor pressure deficit) affect tropical tree mortality? (5) Stomatal behavior: What is the specific role of temperature in the induction of midday-stomtal closure on sunny days? Better knowledge in these areas will improve our ability to predict carbon fluxes in tropical forests experiencing ongoing warming.



This work was supported by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. M.S. was recipient of a CTFS-Forest-GEO postdoctoral fellowship. Milton Garcia assisted with in situ canopy measurements.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaRepublic of Panama

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