The impact of long dry periods on the aboveground biomass in a tropical forests: 20 years of monitoring

Published on 2020-05-31T03:21:14Z (GMT) by
Abstract Background Long-term studies of community and population dynamics indicate that abrupt disturbances often catalyse changes in vegetation and carbon stocks. These disturbances include the opening of clearings, rainfall seasonality, and drought, as well as fire and direct human disturbance. Such events may be super-imposed on longer-term trends in disturbance, such as those associated with climate change (heating, drying), as well as resources. Intact neotropical forests have recently experienced increased drought frequency and fire occurrence, on top of pervasive increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but we lack long-term records of responses to such changes especially in the critical transitional areas at the interface of forest and savanna biomes. Here, we present results from 20 years monitoring a valley forest (moist tropical forest outlier) in central Brazil. The forest has experienced multiple drought events and includes plots which have and which have not experienced fire. We focus on how forest structure (stem density and aboveground biomass carbon) and dynamics (stem and biomass mortality and recruitment) have responded to these disturbance regimes. Results Overall, the biomass carbon stock increased due to the growth of the trees already present in the forest, without any increase in the overall number of tree stems. Over time, both recruitment and especially mortality of trees tended to increase, and periods of prolonged drought in particular resulted in increased mortality rates of larger trees. This increased mortality was in turn responsible for a decline in aboveground carbon toward the end of the monitoring period. Conclusion Prolonged droughts influence the mortality of large trees, leading to a decline in aboveground carbon stocks. Here, and in other neotropical forests, recent droughts are capable of shutting down and reversing biomass carbon sinks. These new results add to evidence that anthropogenic climate changes are already adversely impacting tropical forests.

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de Meira Junior, Milton Serpa; Pinto, José Roberto Rodrigues; Ramos, Natália Oliveira; Miguel, Eder Pereira; Gaspar, Ricardo de Oliveira; Phillips, Oliver L. (2020): The impact of long dry periods on the aboveground biomass in a tropical forests: 20 years of monitoring. figshare. Collection. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5000573.v1