Widespread Decline in Greenness of Amazonian Vegetation Due to the 2010 Drought

Shared by Sangram Ganguly on Mar 14, 2011



During this decade, the Amazon region has suffered two severe droughts in the short span of five years – 2005 and 2010. Studies on the 2005 drought present a complex, and sometimes contradictory, picture of how these forests have responded to the drought. Now, on the heels of the 2005 drought, comes an even stronger drought in 2010, as indicated by record low river levels in the 109 years of bookkeeping. How has the vegetation in this region responded to this record-breaking drought? Here we report widespread, severe and persistent declines in vegetation greenness, a proxy for photosynthetic carbon fixation, in the Amazon region during the 2010 drought based on analysis of satellite measurements. The 2010 drought, as measured by rainfall deficit, affected an area 1.65 times larger than the 2005 drought – nearly 5 million km2 of vegetated area in Amazonia. The decline in greenness during the 2010 drought spanned an area that was four times greater (2.4 million km2) and more severe than in 2005. Notably, 51% of all drought-stricken forests showed greenness declines in 2010 (1.68 million km2) compared to only 14% in 2005 (0.32 million km2). These declines in 2010 persisted following the end of the dry season drought and return of rainfall to normal levels, unlike in 2005. Overall, the widespread loss of photosynthetic capacity of Amazonian vegetation due to the 2010 drought may represent a significant perturbation to the global carbon cycle.

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