Persistent effects of a severe drought on Amazonian forest canopy

08 January 2013

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS

doi: 10.1073/pnas.1204651110 PNAS vol. 110 no. 2 565-570 Authors: Sassan Saatchi, Salvi Asefi-Najafabady, Yadvinder Malhi, Luiz E. O. C. Aragão, Liana O. Anderson, Ranga B. Myneni and Ramakrishna Nemani

View Journal Article / Working Paper

Recent Amazonian droughts have drawn attention to the vulnerability of tropical forests to climate perturbations. Satellite and in situ observations have shown an increase in fire occurrence during drought years and tree mortality following severe droughts, but to date there has been no assessment of long-term impacts of these droughts across landscapes in Amazonia. Here, we use satellite microwave observations of rainfall and canopy backscatter to show that more than 70 million hectares of forest in western Amazonia experienced a strong water deficit during the dry season of 2005 and a closely corresponding decline in canopy structure and moisture. Remarkably, and despite the gradual recovery in total rainfall in subsequent years, the decrease in canopy backscatter persisted until the next major drought, in 2010.