Height matters for Tree survival in the Amazon Life A new study shows that tall and older Amazonian forests are more Tree survival in the Amazon Life resilient to drought than shorter and younger forests, but more vulnerable to the effects of a dry atmosphere and heat.
Trees (and other plants) form the base of the Amazon rainforest ecosystem by providing biomass that can be consumed by other organisms and complex multi-dimensional habitat that can be exploited by other organisms. The vertical structure of the rainforest consists of the ground layer, shrub layer, understory, canopy and overstory, oftentimes extending 40m (130 ft) or higher .
Height matters for tree survival in the Amazon Life
In undisturbed areas, leaves densely pack the canopy, allowing little sunlight to reach the forest floor.
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Within a single hectare of rainforest in Manu, Peru, more than 220 species of trees may be present, Tree survival in the Amazon Life whereas in Europe and North America, a hectare of temperate woodland there may only be 20 species of trees present . Though the Amazon rainforest contains roughly 16,000 tree species, it is generally dominated by far fewer species.
The Brazil nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa) is a dominant species found throughout the Amazon rainforest lowlands. Tree survival in the Amazon Life These trees grow to the top of the canopy layer, sometimes growing nearly 50m (160ft) tall . The Brazil nut tree flowers and produces nuts contained within a solid pod that only a small mammal, the agouti, is able to open.
The nuts are commercially harvested, supporting a lucrative industry. The Brazil nut tree illustrates the connectedness of organisms in the Amazon – it depends on bees for pollination (which depend on orchids) and the agouti for seed dispersal. Losing a single species in the Amazon could have reverberating effects throughout the entire ecosystem.
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The roughly three billion trees in the Amazon photosynthesize using water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) in the presence of sunlight to maintain and increase biomass. The resulting carbon compounds are then stored in their leaves, trunks, roots, and soil in the form of dead and decomposing material. The trees in the Amazon sequester or store 25% of the total CO2 stored in the terrestrial environment .
Per a recent study, however, Tree survival in the Amazon Life it appears that the carbon storage in the Amazon has declined by 30% since the 1990’s due to higher tree mortality .
Tree survival in the Amazon Life
Tropical rainforests play a critical role in regulating the global climate Tree survival in the Amazon Life system—they represent the Earth’s largest terrestrial CO2 sink. Because of its broad geographical expanse and year-long productivity, the Amazon is key to the global carbon and hydrological cycles. Climate change could threaten the fate of rainforests, but there is great uncertainty about the future ability of rainforests to store carbon.
While severe droughts have occurred in recent years in the Amazon watershed, causing widespread tree mortality and affecting the forests’ ability to store carbon, the drivers of tropical rainforests’ sensitivity to drought are poorly understood.
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A new study led by Pierre Gentine, associate professor of earth and environmental engineering at Columbia Engineering, shows that photosynthesis in tall Amazonian forests – forests above 30 meters – is three times less sensitive to precipitation variability than in shorter forests of less than 20 meters. Taller Amazonian forests were also found to be older, have more biomass and deeper rooting systems that enable them to access deeper soil moisture, which makes them more resilient to drought. The paper was published online May 28 on Nature Geoscience.
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The research could help answer persistent questions about how changes in rainfall patterns will affect the ability of tropical rainforests to absorb and store carbon dioxide. “Droughts in the Amazon are expected to increase in magnitude and frequency in the future,” said hydrologist and study co-author Alexandra Konings, an assistant professor of Earth System Science at the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). But the diversity of Amazon rainforests has made it difficult to see what these changes will mean for photosynthesis
Looking forward, rising temperatures due to climate change could cause moisture levels in the Amazon to decline, increasing the prevalence of drought and forest fires, ultimately leading to dieback on a massive scale. To prevent such an ecological catastrophe, actions need to be taken to limit further deforestation and habitat degradation, and measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change need to be delineated and enforced.