Close Window

Previous field measurements have implied that undisturbed Amazon forests may represent a substantial terrestrial sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. We investigated this hypothesis using a regional ecosystem model for net primary production (NPP) and soil biogeochemical cycling. Seasonal and interannual controls on net ecosystem production (NEP) were studied with integration of high-resolution (8-km) multiyear satellite data to characterize Amazon land surface properties over time. Background analysis of temporal and spatial relationships between regional rainfall patterns and satellite observations (for vegetation land cover, fire counts, and smoke aerosol effects) reveals several notable patterns in the model driver data. Autocorrelation analysis for monthly vegetation \'greenness\' index (normalized difference vegetation index, NDVI) from the advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) and monthly rainfall indicates a significant lag time correlation of up to 12 months. At lag times approaching 36 months, autocorrelation function (ACF) values did not exceed the 95% confidence interval at locations west of about 47 degreesW, which is near the transition zone of seasonal tropical forest and other (nonforest) vegetation types. Even at lag times of 12 months or less, the location near Manaus (approximately 60 degreesW) represents the farthest western point in the Amazon region where seasonality of rainfall accounts significantly for monthly variations in forest phenology, as observed using NDVI. Comparisons of NDVI seasonal profiles in areas of the eastern Amazon widely affected by fires (as observed from satellite) suggest that our adjusted AVHRR-NDVI captures year-to-year variation in land cover greenness with minimal interference from small fires and smoke aerosols. Ecosystem model results using this newly generated combination of regional forcing data from satellite suggest that undisturbed Amazon forests can be strong net sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide, particularly during wet (non El Nino) years. However, drought effects during El Nino years can reduce NPP in primary forests of the eastern Amazon by 10-20%, compared to long-term average estimates of regional productivity. Annual NEP for the region is predicted to range from -0.4 Pg C yr(-1) (net CO2 source) to 0.5 Pg C yr (-1) (net CO2 sink), with large interannual variability over the states of Para, Maranhao, and Amazonas. As in the case of predicted NPP, it appears that periods of relatively high solar surface irradiance combined with several months of adequate rainfall are required to sustain the forest carbon sink for positive yearly NEP estimates

Close Window