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Amazon forest shows unexpected resiliency during drought
Date:9/21/2007

cut back photosynthesis quickly when a drought starts. That slowdown in plant growth would create a positive feedback loop -- as the forest shuts down more and more, it removes less and less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The CO2 ordinarily sequestered by growing trees would remain in the atmosphere, increasing global warming and further accelerating the forest's decline and additional CO2-fueled warming.

By contrast, the UA-led team's findings suggest the opposite happens, at least in the short-term. The drought-induced flush of forest growth would dampen global warming, not accelerate it. During the 2005 drought, Amazon forest trees flourished in the sunnier-than-average weather, most likely by tapping water deep in the forest soil. To grow, trees must take up carbon dioxide, thus drawing down the levels of atmospheric CO2. That negative feedback loop would slow warming from greenhouse gases.

Evolutionarily, the forest's resilience in the face of a single drought year makes sense, Saleska said. During El Nino, which occurs about every four to eight years, the Amazon forest receives significantly less rain than average.

The limit of the forest's resiliency is unknown, Saleska said, adding, "But if you take away enough water for long enough, the trees will die."


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Contact: Mari N. Jensen
mnjensen@email.arizona.edu
520-626-9635
University of Arizona
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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