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 B1.28 Pg C y 1 over the entire Amazon region. We also find that intermediate-scale disturbances account for losses of B0.01 Pg C y 1 , and that the largest-scale disturbances as a result of blow-downs only account for losses of B0.003 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.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

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Nature Communications


Macmillan Publishers

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