Drought sensitivity of Amazonian carbon balance revealed by atmospheric measurements - paper in Nature
We have a paper in Nature this week (it makes the cover of Nature) that answers a long-standing question about the net carbon balance of the Amazon forest. It uses aircraft flights throughout the year at four different locations to measure the change in carbon dioxide concentration if air as it passes over the Amazon Basin. The study shows that in wet years and wet seasons the Amazon is a net sink (i.e. absorbs carbon) from the atmosphere, but in dry years and dry seasons it is carbon neutral or a source of carbon. Our main contribution in Oxford was to provide analyses and insight from our RAINFOR-GEM intensive monitoring plots across Amazonia, which suggest that the loss of the carbon sink was caused by a reduction in photosynthesis.
Gatti L.V., M. Gloor, J. B. Miller, C. E. Doughty, Y. Malhi, L. G. Domingues, L. S. Basso, A. Martinewski, C. S. C. Correia, V. F. Borges, S. Freitas, R. Braz, L. O. Anderson, H. Rocha, J. Grace, O. L. Phillips & J. Lloyd Drought sensitivity of Amazonian carbon balance revealed by atmospheric measurements, Nature 506, 76–80.
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University