Direct evidence that drought-weakened Amazonian forests 'inhale less carbon'

4 March 2015

For the first time, an international research team has provided direct evidence of the rate at which individual trees in the Amazonian basin 'inhale' carbon from the atmosphere during a severe drought. They measured the growth and photosynthesis rates of trees at 13 rainforest plots across Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, comparing plots that were affected by the strong drought of 2010 with unaffected plots. They found that while growth rates of the trees in drought-affected plots were unchanged, the rate of photosynthesis - by which trees convert carbon into energy to fuel their activities - slowed down by around 10 percent over six months. Their paper, published in the journal, Nature, concludes that trees may be channelling their more limited energy reserves into growth rather than maintaining their own health. Computer simulations of the biosphere have predicted such responses to drought, but these are the first direct observations of this effect across tropical forests.

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