13.5.1  Global forests

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Forests and woodlands store about 80% of all biotic above-ground organic carbon and 40% of all biotic below-ground organic carbon. They therefore represent a major pool of global carbon. In addition they are major determinants of regional climate through their role in energy and mass transfer between atmosphere and biosphere. About 20% of water flux to the atmosphere occurs through vegetation, mostly forests.

Tropical forests and woodlands also represent one of the few remaining terrestrial ecosystems that are relatively pristine. In addition they are sites of high biodiversity, covering only 6% of the world’s surface but containing up to 50% of the world’s plant and animal species.

Combined areas of tropical forests and woodlands represent 42% of the world’s forested area, 59% of the global forest biomass and 57% of total soil carbon. They are found between 23°N and 23°S. Tropical and subtropical forests and woodlands occupy about 35% of Australia.

Clearly, a knowledge of tropical tree ecophysiology is vital to informed management of these ecosystems, and Section 13.5 will cover some aspects of tropical tree growth and physiology under elevated CO2.