Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon
Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon.
If dry seasons intensify with human-caused climate change, the risk for self-amplified forest loss would increase even more, an international team of scientists finds.
To detect such non-linear behavior, the researchers apply a novel complex network analysis of water fluxes.
"We already know that on the one hand, reduced rainfall increases the risk of forest dieback, and on the other hand, forest loss can intensify regional droughts.
Our study provides new insight into this issue, highlighting the risk of self-amplifying forest loss which comes on top of the forest loss directly caused by the rainfall reduction."
"The Amazon water cycle is of course pure physics and biology, but it is also one of nature’s great wonders," says co-author Henrique M.J. Barbosa from the Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Even if average rainfall might not drastically change, extended drought events might tip parts of the Amazon forest into self-amplifying forest loss, eventually turning them into a savanna.
Diversity has the potential to decrease the effects of self-amplified forest loss.
"Since every species has a different way of reacting to stress, having a great variety of them can be a means for ecosystem resilience," says Marina Hirota from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil.
Self-amplified Amazon forest loss due to vegetation-atmosphere feedbacks.