Drought effects on leaf fall, leaf flushing and stem growth in Neotropical forest; reconciling remote sensing data and field observations

Janssen, T., van der Velde, Y., Hofhansl, F. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0073-0946, Luyssaert, S., Naudts, K., Driessen, B., Fleischer, K., & Dolman, H. (2021). Drought effects on leaf fall, leaf flushing and stem growth in Neotropical forest; reconciling remote sensing data and field observations. Biogeosciences Discussions 18 (14) 4445-4472. 10.5194/bg-2021-30.

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Large amounts of carbon flow through tropical ecosystems every year, from which a part is sequestered in biomass through tree growth. However, the effects of ongoing warming and drying on tree growth and carbon sequestration in tropical forest is still highly uncertain. Field observations are sparse and limited to a few sites while remote sensing analysis shows diverging growth responses to past droughts that cannot be interpreted with confidence. To reconcile data from field observations and remote sensing, we collated in situ measurements of stem growth and leaf litterfall from inventory plots across the Neotropics. This data was used to train two machine learning models and to evaluate model performance on reproducing stem growth and litterfall rates. The models utilized multiple climatological variables and other geospatial datasets as explanatory variables. The output consisted of monthly estimates of leaf litterfall (R2 = 0.67, NRMSE = 9.5 %) and stem growth (R2 = 0.51, NRMSE = 11.2 %) across the neotropics from 1982 to 2019 at a high spatial resolution (0.1°). Modelled time series allowed to assess the impacts of the 2005 and 2015 droughts in the Amazon basin on regional scales. Both droughts were estimated to have caused widespread declines in stem growth (−0.6σ ~ −1.8σ), coinciding with enhanced leaf fall (+0.7σ ~ +0.9σ). Regions in the Amazon basin that flushed leaves at the onset of both droughts (+1.1σ ~ +1.9σ), showed positive anomalies in remotely sensed enhanced vegetation index, while sun-induced fluorescence and vegetation optical depth were reduced. The previously observed counterintuitive response of canopy green-up during drought in the Amazon basin detected by many remote sensing analyses can therefore be explained by enhanced leaf flushing at the onset of a drought. The long-term estimates of leaf litterfall and stem growth point to a decline of stem growth and a simultaneous but weaker increase in leaf litterfall in the Amazon basin since 1982 that is not observed in long-term inventory plots. These trends are associated with increased warming and drying of the Amazonian climate.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Agriculture, Forestry, and Ecosystem Services (AFE)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation (BEC)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2021 08:56
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:34
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/17046

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