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

Academic Article


  • 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 ~1.7 Pg C y(-1) over the entire Amazon region. We also find that intermediate-scale disturbances account for losses of ~0.2 Pg C y(-1), and that the largest-scale disturbances as a result of blow-downs only account for losses of ~0.004 Pg C y(-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.
  • Authors

  • Espírito-Santo, Fernando DB
  • Gloor, Manuel
  • Keller, Michael
  • Malhi, Yadvinder
  • Saatchi, Sassan
  • Nelson, Bruce
  • Junior, Raimundo C Oliveira
  • Pereira, Cleuton
  • Lloyd, Jon
  • Frolking, Stephen
  • Palace, Michael
  • Shimabukuro, Yosio E
  • Duarte, Valdete
  • Mendoza, Abel Monteagudo
  • López-González, Gabriela
  • Baker, Tim R
  • Feldpausch, Ted R
  • Brienen, Roel JW
  • Asner, Gregory P
  • Boyd, Doreen S
  • Phillips, Oliver L
  • Publication Date

  • March 18, 2014
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In


  • Carbon
  • Forests
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 3434
  • Volume

  • 5
  • Issue

  • 1