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Size and frequency of natural forest disturbances and the Amazon forest carbon balance

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Manuel Gloor
  • Michael Keller
  • Yadvinder Malhi
  • Sassan Saatchi
  • Bruce Nelson
  • Raimundo C. Oliveira Junior
  • Cleuton Pereira
  • Jon Lloyd
  • Steve Frolking
  • Michael Palace
  • Yosio E. Shimabukuro
  • Valdete Duarte
  • Abel Monteagudo Mendoza
  • Gabriela Lopez-Gonzalez
  • Tim R. Baker
  • Ted R. Feldpausch
  • Roel J. W. Brienen
  • Gregory P. Asner
  • Doreen S. Boyd
  • Oliver L. Phillips
Article number3434
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>18/03/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Nature Communications
Number of pages6
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


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 similar to 1.7 Pg Cy-1 over the entire Amazon region. We also find that intermediate-scale disturbances account for losses of similar to 0.2 Pg Cy-1, and that the largest-scale disturbances as a result of blow-downs only account for losses of similar to 0.004 Pg Cy-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.