Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the University of Oxford have joined forces for a major new scientific partnership to better understand how extreme weather events and human actions will both influence, and be influenced by, our changing climate.

The partnership aims to produce new and more robust understanding of the feedbacks and interactions between climate change and ecosystems, particularly in the Amazon rainforest.

Visit the project website: www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/climate-partnership

The project explores two complementary themes. The first is a better understanding of the impacts of climate change on tropical ecosystems and how ecosystems respond. The second is focused on better predicting the interactions between climate change mitigation interventions and the wider social and economic landscape.

A key result from this project will be information for conservation strategies.

As a partner in the project, ECI focuses on climate and ecosystem responses, trying to answer the following questions:

  1. the impacts of recent extreme weather events on the Amazonian biosphere, focusing on what role climate change and human influences played in the likelihood of those extreme weather events;
  2. how different reforestation/deforestation scenarios impact the regional climate and the risks of future extreme weather events;
  3. how future forest coverage might change under different climate scenarios;
  4. potential climate impacts of different Amazon forest coverage scenarios on a global scale.

Why is this research important?

The Amazon rainforest plays a disproportionately large role both in hosting biodiversity and affecting global earth system functions, including the carbon balance of the planet. But this unique ecosystem is threatened by wildfires, deforestation and changing climate conditions.

As evidence for human influence on global climate becomes ever clearer, it is important to understand how climate change is affecting the functioning and diversity of the Amazon biosphere, as well as the interactions and feedbacks between biosphere change and climate change.

Initially, the focus is on Brazillian Amazonia and research is designed to influence land management decisions (e.g. reforestation).

Models and methods

This project uses the weather@home framework over the South America region at 50km or 25km resolution, with the option of coupling to a dynamic vegetation model.

It also uses the Hadley Center regional model HadRM3P driven by the global model HadAM3P, where HadAM3P provides boundary conditons to HadRM3P.


So far, the investigation of projected extreme rainfall change has not revealed a clear signal. The ecosystem is too complex for current generation of models to resolve certain process, e.g. moisture recycling within the system, and more observation data needs to be collected to improve the models.

Project details