Atmospheric carbon dioxide records indicate that the land surface has acted as a strong global carbon sink over recent decades1, 2, with a substantial fraction of this sink probably located in the tropics3, particularly in the Amazon4. Nevertheless, it is unclear how the terrestrial carbon sink will evolve as climate and atmospheric composition continue to change. Here we analyse the historical evolution of the biomass dynamics of the Amazon rainforest over three decades using a distributed network of 321 plots. While this analysis confirms that Amazon forests have acted as a long-term net biomass sink, we find a long-term decreasing trend of carbon accumulation. Rates of net increase in above-ground biomass declined by one-third during the past decade compared to the 1990s. This is a consequence of growth rate increases levelling off recently, while biomass mortality persistently increased throughout, leading to a shortening of carbon residence times. Potential drivers for the mortality increase include greater climate variability, and feedbacks of faster growth on mortality, resulting in shortened tree longevity5. The observed decline of the Amazon sink diverges markedly from the recent increase in terrestrial carbon uptake at the global scale1, 2, and is contrary to expectations based on models. (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.
Living trees constitute one of the major stocks of carbon in tropical forests. A better understanding of variations in the dynamics and structure of tropical forests is necessary for predicting the potential for these ecosystems to lose or store carbon, and for understanding how they recover from disturbance. Amazonian tropical forests occur over a vast area that encompasses differences in topography, climate, and geologic substrate. We observed large differences in forest structure, biomass, and tree growth rates in permanent plots situated in the eastern (near Santarém, Pará), central (near Manaus, Amazonas) and southwestern (near Rio Branco, Acre) Amazon, which differed in dry season length, as well as other factors. Forests at the two sites experiencing longer dry seasons, near Rio Branco and Santarém, had lower stem frequencies (460 and 466 ha −1 respectively), less biodiversity (Shannon-Wiener diversity index), and smaller aboveground C stocks (140.6 and 122.1 Mg C ha ), which had less seasonal variation in rainfall. The forests experiencing longer dry seasons also stored a greater proportion of the total biomass in trees with >50 cm diameter (41-45 vs 30% in Manaus). Rates of annual addition of C to living trees calculated from monthly dendrometer band measurements were 1.9 (Manaus), 2.8 (Santarém), and 2.6 (Rio Branco) Mg C ha. At all sites, trees in the 10-30 cm diameter class accounted for the highest proportion of annual growth (38, 55 and 56% in Manaus, Rio Branco and Santarém, respectively). Growth showed marked seasonality, with largest stem diameter increment in the wet season and smallest in the dry season, though this may be confounded by seasonal variation in wood water content. Year-to-year variations in C allocated to stem growth ranged from nearly zero in Rio Branco, to 0.8 Mg C ha −1 year −1 in Manaus (40% of annual mean) and 0.9 Mg C ha −1 year −1 (33% of annual mean) in Santarém, though this variability showed no significant relation with precipitation among years. Initial estimates of the C balance of live wood including recruitment and mortality as well as growth suggests that live wood biomass is at near steady-state in Manaus, but accumulating at about 1.5 Mg C ha −1 at the other two sites. The causes of C imbalance in living wood pools in Santarém and Rio Branco sites are unknown, but may be related to previous disturbance at these sites. Based on size distribution and growth rate differences in the three sites, we predict that trees in the Manaus forest have greater mean age (~240 years) than those of the other two forests (~140 years).
Quantifying age structure and tree growth rate of Amazonian forests is essential for understanding their role in the carbon cycle. Here, we use radiocarbon dating and direct measurement of diameter increment to document unexpectedly slow growth rates for trees from three locations spanning the Brazilian Amazon basin. Central Amazon trees, averaging only Ϸ1 mm͞year diameter increment, grow half as fast as those from areas with more seasonal rainfall to the east and west. Slow growth rates mean that trees can attain great ages; across our sites we estimate 17-50% of trees with diameter >10 cm have ages exceeding 300 years. Whereas a few emergent trees that make up a large portion of the biomass grow faster, small trees that are more abundant grow slowly and attain ages of hundreds of years. The mean age of carbon in living trees (60 -110 years) is within the range of or slightly longer than the mean residence time calculated from C inventory divided by annual C allocation to wood growth (40 -100 years). Faster C turnover is observed in stands with overall higher rates of diameter increment and a larger fraction of the biomass in large, fast-growing trees. As a consequence, forests can recover biomass relatively quickly after disturbance, whereas recovering species composition may take many centuries. Carbon cycle models that apply a single turnover time for carbon in forest biomass do not account for variations in life strategy and therefore may overestimate the carbon sequestration potential of Amazon forests.radiocarbon ͉ forest dynamics ͉ dendrometry ͉ tree age
International audienceThe seasonal climate drivers of the carbon cycle in tropical forests remain poorly known, although these forests account for more carbon assimilation and storage than any other terrestrial ecosystem. Based on a unique combination of seasonal pan-tropical data sets from 89 experimental sites (68 include aboveground wood productivity measurements and 35 litter productivity measurements), their associated canopy photosynthetic capacity (enhanced vegetation index, EVI) and climate, we ask how carbon assimilation and aboveground allocation are related to climate seasonality in tropical forests and how they interact in the seasonal carbon cycle. We found that canopy photosynthetic capacity seasonality responds positively to precipitation when rainfall is < 2000 mm yr(-1) (water-limited forests) and to radiation otherwise (light-limited forests). On the other hand, independent of climate limitations, wood productivity and litterfall are driven by seasonal variation in precipitation and evapotranspiration, respectively. Consequently, light-limited forests present an asynchronism between canopy photosynthetic capacity and wood productivity. First-order control by precipitation likely indicates a decrease in tropical forest productivity in a drier climate in water-limited forest, and in current light-limited forest with future rainfall < 2000 mm yr(-1)
 Models of climate change predict close coupling between increases in aridity and conversion of Amazonian forests to savanna. Here we assess the vulnerability and resilience of Amazonian vegetation to climate change by analyzing observed climate-vegetation relationships using climate data, observed vegetation distributions, and evapotranspiration rates inferred from eddy flux data. We found that drought frequency is an excellent predictor of the forest-savanna boundary, indicating the key role of extreme climatic events for inducing vegetation change, and highlighting particularly vulnerable regions of Amazônia.
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