Amazonian rainforest tree mortality driven by climate and functional traits

Izabela Aleixo*, Darren Norris, Lia Hemerik, Antenor Barbosa, Eduardo Prata, Flávia Costa, Lourens Poorter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Tree mortality appears to be increasing in moist tropical forests 1 , with potentially important implications for global carbon and water cycles 2 . Little is known about the drivers of tree mortality in these diverse forests, partly because long-term data are lacking 3 . The relative importance of climatic factors and species functional traits as drivers of tropical tree mortality are evaluated using a unique dataset in which the survival of over 1,000 rainforest canopy trees from over 200 species has been monitored monthly over five decades in the Central Amazon. We found that drought, as well as heat, storms and extreme rainy years, increase tree mortality for at least two years after the climatic event. Specific functional groups (pioneers, softwoods and evergreens) had especially high mortality during extreme years. These results suggest that predicted climate change will lead to higher tree mortality rates, especially for short-lived species, which may result in faster carbon sequestration but lower carbon storage of tropical forests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-388
Number of pages5
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2019

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