Tropical Dome Project

How does tropical vegetation cope with
climate change?

How extreme does climate change need
to get before tropical vegetation becomes
severely harmed?

To answer these questions, a mixture of tropical trees, shrubs, vines and herbs is exposed to elevated temperatures (+ 6 °C) and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations (2.5 times current ambient), i.e., to levels that exceed by far those predicted for lowland Panama within the next century. The altered environment is created inside solar geodesic domes. The health of the tropical plant communities housed in these domes is studied from the seedling stage until the leaf canopy reaches several meters. In follow-up studies, experimental manipulations will be expanded to include drought treatments.

These experiments inform us about the susceptibility of tropical plants to climate change and environmental stress, thereby providing a basis for decision makers to plan for the future. The experiments direct the attention of the scientific community to the enormous potential of biodome enclosures as tools to study responses of tall vegetation to atmospheric and climate change.
The dome facilities also provide an opportunity for visitors to learn about tropical plants and climate change.