How can Historical Responses of Amazonian Forests to Drought and Fire Inform Future Prediction?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:50 AM
Paulo M Brando1, Claudinei dos Santos2, Ane Alencar2, Gregory P Asner3, Michael Thomas Coe4 and Divino Vicente Silverio5, (1)Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, DC, United States, (2)IPAM Amazon Environmental Research Institute, Brasilia, Brazil, (3)Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Global Ecology, Washington, DC, United States, (4)Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, MA, United States, (5)UNB University of Brasilia, Brasília, Brazil
The responses of Amazonian forests to droughts have important implications for sustainability, biodiversity, and ecosystem processes. These implications are all potentially large, diverse, and persistent. During recent years, for example, more than half of the Amazon experienced droughts that were severe enough to cause increased tree mortality, reduced tree growth, and widespread forest fires, committing to the atmosphere between 1-2% of the carbon stocks of Amazon forests. As climate and land use change, Amazon droughts may become even more frequent and severe. However, most of the existing ecosystem models used to predict potential forest trajectories in Amazonia only accounts for the effects of climate forcing, although the interaction between fires and droughts is perhaps a more direct mechanism of abrupt forest degradation, especially for the southeastern Amazon. Thus, projections of future vegetation responses to climate change in Amazonia require more than simulation of global climate forcing alone and should also consider interactions of droughts, forest fires, and land-use change.