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Project August 27, 2013

Peru: Race in the Rain Forest

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Image by Justin Catanoso. Peru, 2013.

When it comes to climate change, the focus of research and public attention tends to focus on how rising temperatures impact the environment and species of colder climes. Less is understood about the tropics where rainforests absorb greenhouse gases, play a major role in the earth's water cycle and help regulate global temperatures.

But international members of the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group believe that climate change in the Andes has farther-reaching implications. For a decade, these scientists have studied one of most biologically diverse locations on earth — the rain and cloud forests of Manu National Park in southern Peru. They are documenting for the first time how tropical tree and plant species are adapting by slowly migrating upslope to stay in their temperature comfort zones. However, such adaptability is not universal, nor does it appear to be happening fast enough given the rate of rising temperatures.

Journalist Justin Catanoso traveled to the region with some of the world's leading tropical biologists from Oxford University, Edinburgh University, Wake Forest University and Florida International University. He observed research plots in the rain forests and cloud forests and attended the 10th annual meeting of the Andes Group in Pisac. These biologists later bridged the gap between the academic and the practical as they delivered many of their key research findings to Peruvian environmental officials in Lima. In this project, Catanoso reports on the dynamics of global warming in the tropics and the short- and long-term implications for us all.

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