Severe storms and blow-down disturbances in the Amazon forest
Large natural disturbances (> 1 ha) in old-growth tropical forests are caused by a variety of processes such as landslides, fires, wind, and cyclonic storms. We analyzed the pattern of large forest disturbances apparently caused by severe winds (blow-downs) in a mostly unmanaged portion of the Brazilian Amazon using a longitudinal transect of Landsat images (27 scenes between 6°43'W 68°50'S and 2°16'W 51°51'S) and daily precipitation estimates based on NOAA satellite data. We found 170 blow-downs with an average area of 3 km2. Most blow-down disturbances occurred in the Western Amazon between 67°W and 58°W. A map of heavy rainfall (> 20 mm d-1) showed that the maximum frequency of heavy daily rainfall (~80 days y-1) occurred around 63°W in our study region. We found a close relationship between the frequency of heavy storms and the occurrence of blow-down disturbances events. This, in turns, suggests a close connection between severe weather and the rate of forest turnover caused by blow-down disturbances. The forest turnover time calculated for these disturbances within 9 Eastern Landsat scenes studied was almost 9000 years whereas for the 18 scenes in the Western Amazon, turnover time was closer to 1200 year. Large disturbances may have a significant influence on the spatial pattern of forest dynamics and productivity of the Amazon.
EOS, Transactions American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting, Supplement
American Geophysical Union Publications
Espirito-Santo, F., Keller, M., Braswell, B., Nelson, B., Vicente, G. and Frolking, S. (2007), Severe storms and blow-down disturbances in the Amazon forest, Eos Trans. AGU, 88(52), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract B43C-1456.