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LU researcher’s work on tropical forests and climate change published in prestigious journal Science

‘Tropical forests seem surprisingly resilient to temperature changes, but they can be pushed outside of this safe zone’
Michelle Kalamandeen

Laurentian University postdoctoral researcher Michelle Kalamandeen has had her work published in the preeminent journal Science.

Kalamandeen coauthored an article entitled “Long-term thermal sensitivity of Earth’s tropical forests,” which discusses the role this type of ecosystem can play in the fight against climate change.

Though quite a distance from the tropics, similar techniques used for this paper will be applied to assess how recovering carbon stocks in Sudbury will behave under different climatic scenarios using hyperspectral and Landsat satellite imagery. 

Carbon capture is one of the tools in the fight against global warming and climate change. An increase of carbon in the environment leads to the heating of the planet, which can yield devastating consequences. 

The paper underlines the remarkable carbon capture abilities of tropical forests, abilities which are under threat. Measuring over half a million trees in over 800 forests across the tropics, the team found that these forests are resistant to temperature changes, but only up to a temperature of 32 C. 

Any further increase could lead to these forests releasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

The full article in Science, a research digest from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, can be found online here.

Kalamandeen’s work in Sudbury is possible thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Ontario Centre of Excellence (OCE). Known as the Landscape Carbon Accumulation Research (L-CARE) project, 

She continues this research along with her supervisor, John Gunn, as well as Nathan Basiliko out of the Vale Living with Lakes Centre with data collection over several months. 

“We are proud of their collective efforts, and wish Dr. Kalamandeen a fruitful extended visit to Cambridge University,” said a press release from Laurentian.

“In this paper in Science, one of the most influential scientific journals in the world, Dr. Kalamandeen was a major contributor to this global study of the significance of disturbance of tropical forests, the ‘lungs of the planet,’” said Gunn, Canada Research Chair in Stressed Aquatic Systems, and Director of the Vale Living With Lakes Centre, Laurentian University.

“We were privileged to have her join our Laurentian University team as a post-doctoral researcher in 2019, working in partnership with Cambridge University in the UK to assess the importance of carbon capture in the regreening of the Sudbury landscapes, using the same satellite images tools that she has perfected in this paper.”

"Researchers at Laurentian's Vale Living with Lakes Centre are internationally recognized for their contributions to climate change science and this paper further increases their impact and will inform future actions of the global community,” said Tammy Eger, Interim Vice-President, Research at Laurentian.

“Tropical forests seem surprisingly resilient to temperature changes, but they can be pushed outside of this safe zone,” said Kalamandeen.

“Even a 2 C rise above pre-industrial levels pushes about three-quarters of tropical forests within this heat threshold. Intact forests cope much better with temperature increases than fragmented or degraded forests. 

“The current pandemic has provided us with compelling proof of how closely our fate is linked with the health of our forests –from the food we eat to where they’re sourced and how healthy those systems are, to our own individual health. 

“We have a unique opportunity here to transform and reset our global climate system. By ensuring these forests remain intact and act as carbon stores, we’re ensuring that both nature and people benefit.”