Drought sensitivity of the amazon rainforest

Oliver L. Phillips, Luiz E.O.C. Aragão, Simon L. Lewis, Joshua B. Fisher, Jon Lloyd, Gabriela López-González, Yadvinder Malhi, Abel Monteagudo, Julie Peacock, Carlos A. Quesada, Geertjer Van Der Heijden, Samuel Almeida, Iêda Amaral, Luzmila Arroyo, Gerardo Aymard, Tim R. Baker, Olaf Bánki, Lilian Blanc, Damien Bonal, Paulo BrandoJerome Chave, Átila Cristina Alves De Oliveira, Nallaret Dávila Cardozo, Claudia I. Czimczik, Ted R. Feldpausch, Maria Aparecida Freitas, Emanuel Gloor, Niro Higuchi, Eliana Jiménez, Gareth Lloyd, Patrick Meir, Casimiro Mendoza, Alexandra Morel, David A. Neill, Daniel Nepstad, Sandra Patiño, Maria Cristina Peñuela, Adriana Prieto, Fredy Ramírez, Michael Schwarz, Javier Silva, Marcos Silveira, Anne Sota Thomas, Hans Ter Steege, Juliana Stropp, Rodolfo Vásquez, Przemyslaw Zelazowski, Esteban Alvarez Dávila, Sandy Andelman, Eurídice C. Honorio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1346 Citations (Scopus)


Amazon forests are a key but poorly understood component of the global carbon cycle. If, as anticipated, they dry this century, they might accelerate climate change through carbon losses and changed surface energy balances. We used records from multiple long-term monitoring plots across Amazonia to assess forest responses to the intense 2005 drought, a possible analog of future events. Affected forest lost biomass, reversing a large long-term carbon sink, with the greatest impacts observed where the dry season was unusually intense. Relative to pre-2005 conditions, forest subjected to a 100-millimeter increase in water deficit lost 5.3 megagrams of aboveground biomass of carbon per hectare. The drought had a total biomass carbon impact of 1.2 to 1.6 petagrams (1.2 × 1015 to 1.6 × 1015 grams). Amazon forests therefore appear vulnerable to increasing moisture stress, with the potential for large carbon losses to exert feedback on climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1344-1347
Number of pages4
Issue number5919
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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