Amazonia has the world’s most extensive forests, with the largest reservoir of above-ground organic carbon - around 90 Pg C in live trees alone - and the most species. They are under strong human pressure through logging, conversion and exploitation of resources. They face a warming climate and a changing atmosphere. Because of the vast scale of Amazonia, these factors have the potential to significantly modify the global atmospheric greenhouse gas burden (CO2, CH4), the earth’s climate, and the overall biodiversity of the planet. Some scenarios suggest catastrophic release of carbon from Amazon soil and vegetation this century, accelerating climate change globally even before accounting for the impacts of deforestation.
While the role of Amazonia in the carbon cycle is clearly of global importance, its behavior is contentious, even for that portion not undergoing rapid land use change. Understanding the current carbon balance of the whole system is critical to determine its role in either slowing or accelerating climate change through the 21st century. In particular, there is a need to:
- quantify the dominant fluxes into and out of main carbon pools in biomass and soil, the environmental controls of these fluxes,
- establish the infrastructure - plots, methods, expertise - to allow long-term monitoring across the vast region, and
- make these data freely available after sufficient quality control.
The Ecosystem Dynamics group at OUCE is helping the only group currently active in integrating on-the-ground primary forest monitoring across the whole Amazon basin (RAINFOR) to tackle these urgent needs. Our overall goal is to determine the current carbon balance of Amazon forests, together with the associated fluxes and their sensitivity to soil and climate variability. A subsidiary goal is to improve the scientific infrastructure for future monitoring of Amazon biomass and soil carbon. The project is led by the University of Leeds and also has INPA (Brazilian Institute for Amazonian Research) as a major partner, and 30 other institutional partners world-wide. Specifically, we are responsible for establishing a network of 16 intensive RAINFOR monitoring plots at 6 sites across the Amazon (in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru). At these plots, comprehensive monthly surveys of all key carbon stocks and fluxes will (1) Provide definitive baseline estimates of current forest carbon storage, and (2) Track ongoing changes in forest carbon cycling.
I am Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University.
I lead the Ecosystems Programme at the Environmental Change Institute, with a focus of understanding the functioning of tropical forests and...
I am a tropical plant physiological ecologist with a particular interest in plant-water relations. My doctoral research, based at the University of California, Berkeley, focused on the impacts of drought...