Tropical evergreen forests play a major role in the global carbon budget. They account for large proportions of the world's net primary production (NPP) and of the global carbon pool in forest vegetation. Recent studies suggest that they are significant carbon sinks. However, new evidence of the strong temperature dependence of turnover of soil organic carbon suggests that tropical forests could become a major source of atmospheric carbon as global temperature rises. There is a critical need to assess current stocks and fluxes of carbon in tropical forests and to develop predictive models of how these will respond to climate change.
Our results, both the empirical studies of forest carbon cycling and the forest level process model, will potentially have wide applicability for understanding regional variations in tropical rain forest productivity, for managing human-influenced tropical ecosystems, and for predicting the responses and global role of tropical forests under changed global climate and atmospheric conditions.