Investigation of the effects of a severe ENSO-related drought on biomass dynamics in a lowland rainforest in the Amazon.
Tree mortality controls the forest carbon cycle. Extreme climatic events in the Amazon are expected to become more frequent, resulting in increased forest mortality. However, the extent to which individual drought events affect biomass loss, and the resulting resilience of Amazonian forests to drought, are not well understood. These baseline observations are critical for testing models of drought effects on forest carbon fluxes at a pantropical scale.
In this study, researchers from the NGEE-Tropics research team tracked biomass dynamics in over 14,000 trees in 25-hectares of forest in the Colombian Amazon before and after an intense ENSO-related drought. Drought led to a significant reduction in forest biomass, with valley forests being more negatively affected than ridge forests. Surprisingly, however, the forest bounced back rapidly following the drought. Rapid biomass recovery suggests that these forests may be more resilient to periodic ENSO events than anticipated.
Since understanding drivers of tree mortality is essential for modeling forest biomass responses to changing climatic and environmental conditions, this work makes an important contribution to the NGEE-Tropics project. The results suggest a high degree of resilience of this Amazonian forest to drought. Enhanced performance of drought-tolerant species that inhabit the drier ridges enabled forest resilience. The diversity of species' ecologies and physiologies may provide an important buffer for tropical forests during extreme climatic events. The results have important implications for understanding drought impacts elsewhere in the Amazon and in other tropical forest areas.
Contacts (BER PM)
Forest GEO-CTFS, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Funds for the tree censuses were in part provided by the Smithsonian Institution Center for Tropical
Forest Science—Forest Global Earth Observatory (CTFS-ForestGEO). Additional funds came from the COLCIENCIAS funding program in Colombia for both plot census costs and a fellowship to DZ. SJD received support from the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE) Tropics project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Office of Science.
Zuleta, D., A. Duque, D. Cardenas, H. C. Muller-Landau, and S. J. Davies. “Drought-induced mortality patterns and rapid biomass recovery in a terra firme forest in the Colombian Amazon” Ecology 98(10), 2538-2546 (2017). [DOI: 10.1002/ecy.1950]
SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER
Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]
Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]
Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]
Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]
Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]
List all highlights (possible long download time)