The Amazon basin in transition

  • A Corrigendum to this article was published on 07 March 2012

Abstract

Agricultural expansion and climate variability have become important agents of disturbance in the Amazon basin. Recent studies have demonstrated considerable resilience of Amazonian forests to moderate annual drought, but they also show that interactions between deforestation, fire and drought potentially lead to losses of carbon storage and changes in regional precipitation patterns and river discharge. Although the basin-wide impacts of land use and drought may not yet surpass the magnitude of natural variability of hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles, there are some signs of a transition to a disturbance-dominated regime. These signs include changing energy and water cycles in the southern and eastern portions of the Amazon basin.

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Figure 1: Interactions between global climate, land use, fire, hydrology, ecology and human dimensions.
Figure 2: Climatic gradient across the Amazon basin.
Figure 3: Decadal and seasonal variation in flood area.
Figure 4: The Amazon basin today and future fire risks.
Figure 5: Estimates of Amazonian greenhouse-gas emissions.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT), the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) for designing, leading and managing the LBA project. We also thank D. Wickland (NASA) for more than a decade of leadership and support for the LBA-Eco project component of LBA. We thank the LBA-Eco team members who contributed to discussions on an early draft of this manuscript at a workshop in Foz do Iguaçu in August 2010, and S. Saleska for comments on the manuscript. We thank P. Lefebvre and W. Kingerlee for assistance with figure and manuscript preparation. Development of this manuscript was supported by NASA grants NNX08AF63A and NNX11AF20G.

Author information

E.A.D. wrote an initial rough draft and edited the final draft of the paper. M.K. and M.T.C. contributed significant final edits. All of the other co-authors participated in an LBA-Eco team meeting at Foz do Iguaçu on August, 13, 2010, where this manuscript was designed, and either were co-leaders of breakout groups or made significant subsequent contributions of subsections of text or figures. All co-authors also provided edits throughout.

Correspondence to Eric A. Davidson.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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