The Production, Storage, and Flow of Carbon in Amazonian Forests

01 January 2009

Malhi, Y. et al

Amazonia and Global Change Geophysical Monograph Series 186 Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union. DOI: 10.1029/2008GM000779

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The carbon stores and dynamics of tropical forests are the subject of major international scientific and policy attention. Research associated with the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA) has generated substantial advances in our understanding of the cycling of carbon at selected forest sites in Brazilian Amazonia and generated new insights into how these processes may vary across the wider Amazonian region. Here we report on aspects of this new understanding. We present, in particular, a comprehensive synthesis of carbon cycling in three focal LBA sites (Manaus, Tapajós, and Caxiuanã), drawing on studies of productivity, litterfall, respiration, physiology, and ecosystem fluxes. These studies are placed in the context of the wider Amazonian region by utilizing the results of the Amazon Forest Inventory Network (RAINFOR) and other forest plots. We discuss the basin-wide distribution of forest biomass derived by combining these plots and a suite of satellite data, and examine the dynamics of carbon cycling in the context of regional carbon stores in the forest. Particular attention is drawn to the strong relationship between forest productivity and turnover, which suggests that higher levels of forest productivity increase forest dynamism rather than forest biomass. We conclude by discussing what the scientific priorities should be for a synthetic region-wide understanding of the carbon dynamics and stores of Amazonian forests.