Fernando D.B. Espírito-Santo a , 1 , 2 , Manuel Gloor 3 , Michael Keller 2 , 4 , 5 , Yadvinder Malhi 6 , Sassan Saatchi 1 , Bruce Nelson 7 , Raimundo C. Oliveira Junior 8 , Cleuton Pereira 9 , Jon Lloyd 3 , 10 , Steve Frolking 2 , Michael Palace 2 , Yosio E. Shimabukuro 11 , Valdete Duarte 11 , Abel Monteagudo Mendoza 12 , Gabriela López-González 3 , Tim R. Baker 3 , Ted R. Feldpausch 3 , 15 , Roel J.W. Brienen 3 , Gregory P. Asner 13 , Doreen S. Boyd 14 , Oliver L. Phillips 3
18 March 2014
Forest inventory studies in the Amazon indicate a large terrestrial carbon sink. However, field plots may fail to represent forest mortality processes at landscape-scales of tropical forests. Here we characterize the frequency distribution of disturbance events in natural forests from 0.01 ha to 2,651 ha size throughout Amazonia using a novel combination of forest inventory, airborne lidar and satellite remote sensing data. We find that small-scale mortality events are responsible for aboveground biomass losses of ~1.7 Pg C y −1 over the entire Amazon region. We also find that intermediate-scale disturbances account for losses of ~0.2 Pg C y −1, and that the largest-scale disturbances as a result of blow-downs only account for losses of ~0.004 Pg C y −1. Simulation of growth and mortality indicates that even when all carbon losses from intermediate and large-scale disturbances are considered, these are outweighed by the net biomass accumulation by tree growth, supporting the inference of an Amazon carbon sink.
The world’s tropical forests represent a terrestrial carbon sink, yet its size is uncertain. Espírito-Santo et al. characterize full Amazon disturbances combining forest inventories and remote sensing data, and use statistical modelling to quantify the Amazon aboveground forest carbon balance.