iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


An assessment of climate change impacts on the tropical forests of Central America using the Holdridge Life Zone (HLZ) land classification system

K Khatun (1)   , P Imbach (2), J Zamora (2)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 6, Issue 4, Pages 183-189 (2013)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor0743-006
Published: May 08, 2013 - Copyright © 2013 SISEF

Research Articles

Ecological models have predicted shifts in forest biomes, yet there have been very few studies that have looked at the implications on carbon stocks due to these shifts. Carbon is closely correlated to biomass and constitutes an important characteristic of the forest ecosystem. It has implications for conservation and land use practices, especially for climate change mitigation strategies currently under discussion, such as REDD+. This study couples the Holdridge Life Zone (HLZ) classification with the ECHAM5 model, to evaluate the impacts of climate change using the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A2, A1B and B1 for the Central American region. We utilize methodologies which combine biophysical variables with model output to assess the impacts on carbon stocks for two time periods, 2000 and 2100, . Results show that overall, the tropical category of the HLZ classification gains area as a result of one type of HLZ shifting to another forest type. In many cases the shifts result in some categories of HLZ being lost in their entirety. Elevation-associated life zones are particularly vulnerable to future climatic changes. A strong point of our approach is that differences between disaggregate regional and aggregate country levels can be compared. We suggest that a critical focus of conservation and management efforts should be concentrated on where vulnerable biomes are at most risk (biomes that shift and/or reduce fall under the vulnerable category).


Climate Change, Conservation, Forests, Holdridge Life Zones

Authors’ address

K Khatun
Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra (Spain)
P Imbach
J Zamora
Programa de Cambio Climático - CATIE, 30501 Turrialba (Costa Rica)

Corresponding author


Khatun K, Imbach P, Zamora J (2013). An assessment of climate change impacts on the tropical forests of Central America using the Holdridge Life Zone (HLZ) land classification system. iForest 6: 183-189. - doi: 10.3832/ifor0743-006

Academic Editor

Roberto Tognetti

Paper history

Received: Aug 21, 2012
Accepted: Mar 01, 2013

First online: May 08, 2013
Publication Date: Aug 01, 2013
Publication Time: 2.27 months

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