The resilience of Amazonian floodplain forests to drought-induced fires: the role of terrestrial-aquatic coupling.

Project: PhD

Project Details


Amazonian forests hold the highest biodiversity in the world and play a fundamental role in global carbon sequestration and climate regulation. Climate change is a major threat for forest persistence by increasing the frequency of extreme droughts and their associated fires. Blackwater floodplain forests have been identified as the “Achilles’ heels” of Amazonian forest resilience, because they are more susceptible to fire and recover more slowly after burning. Especially worrisome are observations that with repeated burning, floodplain forests may not recover, remaining in a savanna-like state. Previous research indicates that seed dispersal may be a crucial bottleneck for forest recovery. In Amazonian floodplains, fish are major active seed dispersers for a large diversity of trees. We hypothesize that high tree mortality in burnt floodplain forests reduces food availability and increases predation risk for fruit eating-fish. As a consequence, we expect seed-dispersing fishes to avoid fire scars, creating a strong seed dispersal limitation that prevents tree establishment. This may generate a positive feedback that reinforces the transition from a forests to an open savanna-like vegetation locally known as “campinas”. To test these predictions, we will study fish communities on fire scar, savanna-like and unburned floodplains, using a combination of field sampling, fish stomach content and isotope analyses, to unravel the mechanisms that couple terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and that underlie the low resilience of Amazonian floodplain forests to perturbations.
Effective start/end date25/11/19 → …


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