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Fri Feb 22, 2019, 06:28 AM

Hurricanes create natural climate change labs in Puerto Rico

EL YUNQUE, Puerto Rico (AP) — The hurricanes that pounded Puerto Rico in 2017, blasting away most of its forest cover, may give scientists clues to how the world will respond to climate change and increasingly severe weather.

Researchers at El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, are running controlled studies on how plants respond to higher temperatures combined — since the cataclysmic blow from Hurricane Maria — with severe weather. Not far away, another group is looking at how hurricanes affect the forest environment.

“It’s a once-in-a-century opportunity to look at these two aspects of climate change together,” said Tana Wood, a research ecologist with the Forest Service.

Wood heads a team testing how plants themselves respond to higher temperatures. The 2017 hurricane season, with Maria following a lesser blow from Hurricane Irma, has given them a chance as well to see how storms affect the recovery of ecosystems already under stress, a key concern in the Caribbean, where scientists say warmer temperatures could lead to more intense hurricanes.

Read more: https://apnews.com/ba991184859c4e22b2163121f6846106

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