Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/esdd-1-63-2010
https://doi.org/10.5194/esdd-1-63-2010
05 May 2010
 | 05 May 2010
Status: this preprint was under review for the journal ESD but the revision was not accepted.

Climatic and ecological future of the Amazon: likelihood and causes of change

B. Cook, N. Zeng, and J.-H. Yoon

Abstract. Some recent climate modeling results suggested a possible dieback of the Amazon rainforest under future climate change, a prediction that raised considerable interest as well as controversy. To determine the likelihood and causes of such changes, we analyzed the output of 15 models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC/AR4) and a dynamic vegetation model VEGAS driven by these climate output. Our results suggest that the core of the Amazon rainforest should remain largely stable as rainfall is projected to increase in nearly all models. However, the periphery, notably the southern edge of the Amazon and further south in central Brazil, are in danger of drying out, driven by two main processes. Firstly, a decline in precipitation of 22% in the southern Amazon's dry season (May–September) reduces soil moisture, despite an increase in precipitation during the wet season, due to nonlinear responses in hydrology and ecosystem dynamics. Two dynamical mechanisms may explain the lower dry season rainfall: (1) a general subtropical drying under global warming when the dry season southern Amazon is under the control of the subtropical high pressure; (2) a stronger north-south tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature gradient, and to lesser degree a warmer eastern equatorial Pacific. Secondly, evaporation demand will increase due to the general warming, further reducing soil moisture. In terms of ecosystem response, higher maintenance cost and reduced productivity under warming may also have additional adverse impact. The drying corresponds to a lengthening of the dry season by 11 days. As a consequence, the median of the models projects a reduction of 20% in vegetation carbon stock in the southern Amazon, central Brazil, and parts of the Andean Mountains. Further, VEGAS predicts enhancement of fire risk by 10–15%. The increase in fire is primarily due to the reduction in soil moisture, and the decrease in dry season rainfall, which is when fire danger reaches its peak. Because the southern Amazon is also under intense human influence as a result of deforestation and land use, added pressure to the region's ecosystems from climate change may subject the region to profound changes in the 21st century.

Publisher's note: Copernicus Publications remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims made in the text, published maps, institutional affiliations, or any other geographical representation in this preprint. The responsibility to include appropriate place names lies with the authors.
B. Cook, N. Zeng, and J.-H. Yoon
 
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Status: closed
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Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement
B. Cook, N. Zeng, and J.-H. Yoon
B. Cook, N. Zeng, and J.-H. Yoon

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