Amazon forests are a key but poorly understood component of the global carbon cycle. If, as anticipated, they dry this century, they might accelerate climate change through carbon losses and changed surface energy balances. We used records from multiple long-term monitoring plots across Amazonia to assess forest responses to the intense 2005 drought, a possible analog of future events. Affected forest lost biomass, reversing a large long-term carbon sink, with the greatest impacts observed where the dry season was unusually intense. Relative to pre-2005 conditions, forest subjected to a 100-millimeter increase in water deficit lost 5.3 megagrams of aboveground biomass of carbon per hectare. The drought had a total biomass carbon impact of 1.2 to 1.6 petagrams (1.2 × 1015 to 1.6 × 1015 grams). Amazon forests therefore appear vulnerable to increasing moisture stress, with the potential for large carbon losses to exert feedback on climate change
The vast extent of the Amazon Basin has historically restricted the study of its tree communities to the local and regional scales. Here, we provide empirical data on the commonness, rarity, and richness of lowland tree species across the entire Amazon Basin and Guiana Shield (Amazonia), collected in 1170 tree plots in all major forest types. Extrapolations suggest that Amazonia harbors roughly 16,000 tree species, of which just 227 (1.4%) account for half of all trees. Most of these are habitat specialists and only dominant in one or two regions of the basin. We discuss some implications of the finding that a small group of species-less diverse than the North American tree flora-accounts for half of the world's most diverse tree community
Summary• The rich ecology of tropical forests is intimately tied to their moisture status. Multi-site syntheses can provide a macro-scale view of these linkages and their susceptibility to changing climates. Here, we report pan-tropical and regional-scale analyses of tree vulnerability to drought.• We assembled available data on tropical forest tree stem mortality before, during, and after recent drought events, from 119 monitoring plots in 10 countries concentrated in Amazonia and Borneo.• In most sites, larger trees are disproportionately at risk. At least within Amazonia, low wood density trees are also at greater risk of drought-associated mortality, independent of size. For comparable drought intensities, trees in Borneo are more vulnerable than trees in the Amazon. There is some evidence for lagged impacts of drought, with mortality rates remaining elevated 2 yr after the meteorological event is over.• These findings indicate that repeated droughts would shift the functional composition of tropical forests toward smaller, denser-wooded trees. At very high drought intensities, the linear relationship between tree mortality and moisture stress apparently breaks down, suggesting the existence of moisture stress thresholds beyond which some tropical forests would suffer catastrophic tree mortality.
Aboveground tropical tree biomass and carbon storage estimates commonly ignore tree height (<i>H</i>). We estimate the effect of incorporating <i>H</i> on tropics-wide forest biomass estimates in 327 plots across four continents using 42 656 <i>H</i> and diameter measurements and harvested trees from 20 sites to answer the following questions: <br><br> 1. What is the best <i>H</i>-model form and geographic unit to include in biomass models to minimise site-level uncertainty in estimates of destructive biomass? <br><br> 2. To what extent does including <i>H</i> estimates derived in (1) reduce uncertainty in biomass estimates across all 327 plots? <br><br> 3. What effect does accounting for <i>H</i> have on plot- and continental-scale forest biomass estimates? <br><br> The mean relative error in biomass estimates of destructively harvested trees when including <i>H</i> (mean 0.06), was half that when excluding <i>H</i> (mean 0.13). Power- and Weibull-<i>H</i> models provided the greatest reduction in uncertainty, with regional Weibull-<i>H</i> models preferred because they reduce uncertainty in smaller-diameter classes (≤40 cm <i>D</i>) that store about one-third of biomass per hectare in most forests. Propagating the relationships from destructively harvested tree biomass to each of the 327 plots from across the tropics shows that including <i>H</i> reduces errors from 41.8 Mg ha<sup>−1</sup> (range 6.6 to 112.4) to 8.0 Mg ha<sup>−1</sup> (−2.5 to 23.0). For all plots, aboveground live biomass was −52.2 Mg ha<sup>−1</sup> (−82.0 to −20.3 bootstrapped 95% CI), or 13%, lower when including <i>H</i> estimates, with the greatest relative reductions in estimated biomass in forests of the Brazilian Shield, east Africa, and Australia, and relatively little change in the Guiana Shield, central Africa and southeast Asia. Appreciably different stand structure was observed among regions across the tropical continents, with some storing significantly more biomass in small diameter stems, which affects selection of the best height models to reduce uncertainty and biomass reductions due to <i>H</i>. After accounting for variation in <i>H</i>, total biomass per hectare is greatest in Australia, the Guiana Shield, Asia, central and east Africa, and lowest in east-central Amazonia, W. Africa, W. Amazonia, and the Brazilian Shield (descending order). Thus, if tropical forests span 1668 million km<sup>2</sup> and store 285 Pg C (estimate including <i>H</i>), then applying our regional relationships implies that carbon storage is overestimated by 35 Pg C (31–39 bootstrapped 95% CI) if <i>H</i> is ignored, assuming that the sampled plots are an unbiased statistical representation of all tropical forest in terms of biomass and height ...
The extent to which pre-Columbian societies altered Amazonian landscapes is hotly debated. We performed a basin-wide analysis of pre-Columbian impacts on Amazonian forests by overlaying known archaeological sites in Amazonia with the distributions and abundances of 85 woody species domesticated by pre-Columbian peoples. Domesticated species are five times more likely than nondomesticated species to be hyperdominant. Across the basin, the relative abundance and richness of domesticated species increase in forests on and around archaeological sites. In southwestern and eastern Amazonia, distance to archaeological sites strongly influences the relative abundance and richness of domesticated species. Our analyses indicate that modern tree communities in Amazonia are structured to an important extent by a long history of plant domestication by Amazonian peoples
Aim Large trees (d.b.h.≥70 cm) store large amounts of biomass. Several studies suggest that large trees may be vulnerable to changing climate, potentially leading to declining forest biomass storage. Here we determine the importance of large trees for tropical forest biomass storage and explore which intrinsic (species trait) and extrinsic (environment) variables are associated with the density of large trees and forest biomass at continental and pan-tropical scales. Location Pan-tropical. Methods Aboveground biomass (AGB) was calculated for 120 intact lowland moist forest locations. Linear regression was used to calculate variation in AGB explained by the density of large trees. Akaike information criterion weights (AICc-wi) were used to calculate averaged correlation coefficients for all possible multiple regression models between AGB/density of large trees and environmental and species trait variables correcting for spatial autocorrelation. Results Density of large trees explained c. 70% of the variation in pan-tropical AGB and was also responsible for significantly lower AGB in Neotropical [287.8 (mean)±105.0 (SD) Mg ha -1 versus Palaeotropical forests (Africa 418.3±91.8 Mg ha-1; Asia 393.3±109.3 Mg ha-1). Pan-tropical variation in density of large trees and AGB was associated with soil coarseness (negative), soil fertility (positive), community wood density (positive) and dominance of wind dispersed species (positive), temperature in the coldest month (negative), temperature in the warmest month (negative) and rainfall in the wettest month (positive), but results were not always consistent among continents. Main conclusions Density of large trees and AGB were significantly associated with climatic variables, indicating that climate change will affect tropical forest biomass storage. Species trait composition will interact with these future biomass changes as they are also affected by a warmer climate. Given the importance of large trees for variation in AGB across the tropics, and their sensitivity to climate change, we emphasize the need for in-depth analyses of the community dynamics of large trees. (Résumé d'auteur
The high species richness of tropical forests has long been recognized, yet there remains substantial uncertainty regarding the actual number of tropical tree species. Using a pantropical tree inventory database from closed canopy forests, consisting of 657,630 trees belonging to 11,371 species, we use a fitted value of Fisher's alpha and an approximate pantropical stem total to estimate the minimum number of tropical forest tree species to fall between ∼ 40,000 and ∼ 53,000, i.e., at the high end of previous estimates. Contrary to common assumption, the Indo-Pacific region was found to be as species-rich as the Neotropics, with both regions having a minimum of ∼ 19,000-25,000 tree species. Continental Africa is relatively depauperate with a minimum of ∼ 4,500-6,000 tree species. Very few species are shared among the African, American, and the Indo-Pacific regions. We provide a methodological framework for estimating species richness in trees that may help refine species richness estimates of tree-dependent taxa.
Understanding the processes that determine above-ground biomass (AGB) in Amazonian forests is important for predicting the sensitivity of these ecosystems to environmental change and for designing and evaluating dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs). AGB is determined by inputs from woody productivity [woody net primary productivity (NPP)] and the rate at which carbon is lost through tree mortality. Here, we test whether two direct metrics of tree mortality (the absolute rate of woody biomass loss and the rate of stem mortality) and/or woody NPP, control variation in AGB among 167 plots in intact forest across Amazonia. We then compare these relationships and the observed variation in AGB and woody NPP with the predictions of four DGVMs. The observations show that stem mortality rates, rather than absolute rates of woody biomass loss, are the most important predictor of AGB, which is consistent with the importance of stand size structure for determining spatial variation in AGB. The relationship between stem mortality rates and AGB varies among different regions of Amazonia, indicating that variation in wood density and height/diameter relationships also influences AGB. In contrast to previous findings, we find that woody NPP is not correlated with stem mortality rates and is weakly positively correlated with AGB. Across the four models, basinwide average AGB is similar to the mean of the observations. However, the models consistently overestimate woody NPP and poorly represent the spatial patterns of both AGB and woody NPP estimated using plot data. In marked contrast to the observations, DGVMs typically show strong positive relationships between woody NPP and AGB. Resolving these differences will require incorporating forest size structure, mechanistic models of stem mortality and variation in functional composition in DGVMs.
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