Impacts of Climate Change on Tropical Rainforests of Sri Lanka

Prof. Janendra De Costa - Team Leader
Department of Crop Science, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya

Climate change is expected to disrupt Sri Lanka’s delicate tropical rainforest ecosystems and drive species extinctions. In November 2018, a multidisciplinary group of scientists led by Prof. Janendra De Costa, commenced work in partnership with the National Science Foundation to conduct an island-wide study to understand the impacts of climate change on Sri Lanka’s rainforest ecosystems. The Rilagala Forest Reserve adjoining Dilmah’s Queensberry Tea Estate has been selected as one of the permanent plots to be studied during the research period.

The study, which kicked off at Dilmah Conservation’s Climate Change Research and Adaptation Centre, will investigate key rainforest characteristics that include: plant, reptile, and amphibian diversity, tree canopy structure, and tree photosynthesis and transpiration rates, in select forest locations that range from 100m above sea level to more than 2000m. This data will then be used to model the behaviour of rainforest ecosystems to environmental changes and predict the effects of climate change on Sri Lanka’s endemic flora and fauna. The results will be critical in managing current threats to the tropical rainforests effectively.

This multidisciplinary project has commenced with the direct involvement of Mr. Anura Sathurusinghe, the Conservator General of Forests at the Department of Forest Conservation, Dr. Sampath Wahala from the Department of Tourism Management at Sabaragamuwa University, and many other senior scientists from the University of Peradeniya, University of Colombo, Rajarata University, and Sabaragamuwa University.

The project will also provide postgraduate students with a unique opportunity to undertake climate change related research in the country. Currently, the project has facilitated two postgraduate studentships for students from Jaffna University and Sabaragamuwa University.

Project locations:

Kottawa, Oliyagankelle, Sinharaja (Deniyaya and Morningside), Rilagala (adjoining the Queensberry Tea Estate and the Dilmah Conservation Climate Change Research Centre), Hakgala, Horton Plains and Pidurutalagala.