Future precipitation changes and their implications for tropical peatlands

  • Li W
  • Dickinson R
  • Fu R
 et al. 
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Abstract

Carbon (C) in tropical peatlands over Southeast Asia and Amazonia, if released to the atmosphere, can substantially increase the growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Over Southeast Asia, where the most extensive tropical peatlands in the world occur, 11 climate models for the IPCC Fourth Assessment show an overall decrease of rainfall in future dry seasons. Over Amazonia, future rainfall changes in dry seasons are highly uncertain; five models predict increased rainfall, and the remaining models predict the opposite. We have further examined the UKMO-HadCM3, GISS-ER, and GFDL-CM2.1 models. Over Southeast Asia, all three models predict similar decreases of rainfall and evaporative fraction, implying an increase of water table depth and surface dryness during the dry season south of the equator. Such changes would potentially switch peat ecosystems from acting as C sinks to C sources. Over Amazonia, the two models with the best simulations of current rainfall produce conflicting results for the future of peat stability.

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