A newly research undertaken by researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Leeds have shown that the recent large drought in the Amazon Rainforest Basin, the largest tropical forest on our planet, has put a stop to carbon sinking. The most impactful ones have been previously recorded in 2005, 2007 and 2010.

The study has been published in the Global Biogeochemical Cycles Journal and the lead author Ted Feldpausch quoted that “Our plots across the basin indicate that this forest became carbon neutral, so they were not taking up more than they were losing”.

Previous studies conducted by the RAINFOR network, an international collaboration that works from more than 30 countries who focus on the dynamic understanding of the Amazon ecosystems and use long-term measurements which extend nearly a hundred locations across the basin, discovered that the rate of growth and tree mortality which has increased by a third since the 80’s, plus the temporarily lost biomass, had been heavily linked with the most recent dryness events and as others researchers suggested, Amazon may be losing its capacity (which can reach 100 billion tonnes in biomass) to retain carbon from the atmosphere and therefore slowing down the rate of uptake. Amazonia forest has a moderate level of resilience to continuous droughts but if this patterns of instability continue it can reach extremes and it can continue to affect the enormously and unique diversity of animals and plants. Professor Oliver Philips from the University of Leeds, UK, highlighted that “A big challenge now is to discover which species are at risk”.

Being considered the worst in the last century the impact of the drought also affected many local communities who struggle without water and depend on the “rich” rivers to survive even being used to other harsh conditions as flooding extremes or agricultural breaks.

Professor Oliver Philips commented that Amazon forest is now beginning “a new thermal regime” which “the plants haven’t seen in their recent evolutionary history”. How the ecosystem will adapt is still unknown. More dryness years are still to come and the Amazon balance will struggle to adapt.

– André Raio, Correspondent (Science)