Seasonal greenness variations in Amazon transitional forests in response to light, moisture, and land use

Friday, 19 December 2014: 2:40 PM
Piyachat Ratana, Alfredo R Huete, Kevin Davies and Natalia Restrepo-Coupe, University of Technology Sydney, Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change, Ultimo, Australia
The Amazon basin consists of structurally diverse tropical forest ecosystems resulting from unique functional responses to seasonal rainfall and radiation drivers, as well as fire and land use pressures. Dry season intensity and duration increase from the tropical wet rainforests at the equator to cerrado at the south, with transitional forests (dry forest, semi-deciduous forests, and cerradão) and the arc of deforestation between the two large biomes. Little known of this distinctive transitional forest composition and functional types, yet this zone is disappearing rapidly due to anthropological pressure and warming events.

We hypothesize that these gradients in light, moisture, land use pressures, and forest functional types should be expressed in distinct canopy-level seasonal responses observable in satellite time series data. Yet, recent studies have raised concerns of concurrent seasonal sun geometry influences that confound the interpretation of satellite-derived greenness and suggest that observed tropical forest seasonality are optical artifacts of shifting sun- sensor view geometries.

In this study we investigated forest seasonal variations and greenness dynamics across the transition zone, with 10+ years (2003-2013) of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) enhanced vegetation index (EVI) data derived from the MCD43A1 product, for a fixed sun angle and fully corrected for sun- sensor view geometries. EVI values were extracted across two latitudinal transects across the Amazon transition zone sampling the eastern and central regions of the basin.

We found a clear pattern of shifting forest greenness seasonality resulting from earlier onsets of the dry season from south to the north, irrespective of, and asynchronous with the solstice to equinox sun-earth geometry. From this seasonal profiles dry season greening in the wet forests and browning in the southern tropical dry forests could be observed. In many of the transitional forests, a mixed seasonal response to light and moisture controls was observed, partly due to mixed tree functional types. This work offers an improved understanding of forest vegetation dynamics and phenology along the forest–ecotone-savanna, important information for predicting climate change and anthropogenic impacts at the Amazon basin.