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Nat Commun. 2018 Aug 9;9(1):3172. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05668-6.

Post-drought decline of the Amazon carbon sink.

Author information

1
Institute of Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA. yangyannn@gmail.com.
2
Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA. yangyannn@gmail.com.
3
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA. yangyannn@gmail.com.
4
Institute of Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
5
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA.
6
Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA.
7
Dept. of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA.
8
Int. Institute of Tropical Forestry & Int. Programs, USDA Forest Service, Washington, USA.

Abstract

Amazon forests have experienced frequent and severe droughts in the past two decades. However, little is known about the large-scale legacy of droughts on carbon stocks and dynamics of forests. Using systematic sampling of forest structure measured by LiDAR waveforms from 2003 to 2008, here we show a significant loss of carbon over the entire Amazon basin at a rate of 0.3 ± 0.2 (95% CI) PgC yr-1 after the 2005 mega-drought, which continued persistently over the next 3 years (2005-2008). The changes in forest structure, captured by average LiDAR forest height and converted to above ground biomass carbon density, show an average loss of 2.35 ± 1.80 MgC ha-1 a year after (2006) in the epicenter of the drought. With more frequent droughts expected in future, forests of Amazon may lose their role as a robust sink of carbon, leading to a significant positive climate feedback and exacerbating warming trends.

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