Long-term decline of the Amazon carbon sink

Roel Brienen*, Oliver Phillips*, Ted Feldpausch, Emanuel Gloor, Tim Baker, Jon Lloyd, Gabriela Lopez-Gonzalez, Abel Monteagudo-Mendoza, Yadvinder Malhi, Simon L. Lewis, Rodolfo Vásquez Martinez, Miguel Alexiades, Esteban Álvarez Dávila, Patricia Alvarez-Loayza, Ana Andrade, Luiz Aragão, Alejandro Araujo-Murakami, Eric Arets, Luzmila Arroyo, Gerardo AymardOlaf Bánki, Christopher Baraloto, Jorcely Barroso, Damien Bonal, R. Boot, Jose Camargo, Carolina Castilho, Victor Chama, Kuo Chao, Jerome Chave, James Comiskey, Fernando Cornejo Valverde, L. da Costa, E. de Oliveira, Anthony Di Fiore, Terry Erwin, Sophie Fauset, Mônica Forsthofer, David Galbraith, E. Grahame, N. Groot, Bruno Hérault, Niro Higuchi, Eurídice Honorio Coronado, H. Keeling, Timothy Killeen, William Laurance, Susan Laurance, Juan-Carlos Licona, William Magnussen, Beatriz Marimon, Ben Hur Marimon-Junior, Casimiro Mendoza, David Neill, Euler Nogueira, Paul Núñez, Nadir Pallqui Camacho, Alexander Parada, Gerin Pardo-Molina, Julie Peacock, Marielos Peña-Claros, G. Pickavance, Nigel Pitman, Lourens Poorter, Adriana Prieto, Carlos Quesada, Facundo Ramírez, Hirma Ramírez-Angulo, Zorayda Restrepo, Anand Roopsind, A. Rudas, Rafael Salomão, M. Schwarz, Nelson Silva, Javier Silva-Espejo, Marcus Silveira, Juliana Stropp, J. Talbot, Hans ter Steege, J. Teran-Aguilar, John Terborgh, R. Thomas-Caesar, Marisol Toledo, Mireia Torello-Raventos, Ricardo Umetsu, Geertje van der Heijden, Peter van der Hout, Ima Guimarães Vieira, Sonia Vieira, Emilio Vilanova, Vincent Vos, Roderick Zagt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

601 Citations (Scopus)


Atmospheric carbon dioxide records indicate that the land surface has acted as a strong global carbon sink over recent decades, with a substantial fraction of this sink probably located in the tropics, particularly in the Amazon. Nevertheless, it is unclear how the terrestrial carbon sink will evolve as climate and atmospheric composition continue to change. Here we analyse the historical evolution of the biomass dynamics of the Amazon rainforest over three decades using a distributed network of 321 plots. While this analysis confirms that Amazon forests have acted as a long-term net biomass sink, we find a long-term decreasing trend of carbon accumulation. Rates of net increase in above-ground biomass declined by one-third during the past decade compared to the 1990s. This is a consequence of growth rate increases levelling off recently, while biomass mortality persistently increased throughout, leading to a shortening of carbon residence times. Potential drivers for the mortality increase include greater climate variability, and feedbacks of faster growth on mortality, resulting in shortened tree longevity. The observed decline of the Amazon sink diverges markedly from the recent increase in terrestrial carbon uptake at the global scale, and is contrary to expectations based on models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-348
Issue number7543
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2015


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