Forest-rainfall cascades buffer against drought across the Amazon

Arie Staal*, Obbe A. Tuinenburg, Joyce H.C. Bosmans, Milena Holmgren, Egbert H. van Nes, Marten Scheffer, Delphine Clara Zemp, Stefan C. Dekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Tree transpiration in the Amazon may enhance rainfall for downwind forests. Until now it has been unclear how this cascading effect plays out across the basin. Here, we calculate local forest transpiration and the subsequent trajectories of transpired water through the atmosphere in high spatial and temporal detail. We estimate that one-third of Amazon rainfall originates within its own basin, of which two-thirds has been transpired. Forests in the southern half of the basin contribute most to the stability of other forests in this way, whereas forests in the south-western Amazon are particularly dependent on transpired-water subsidies. These forest-rainfall cascades buffer the effects of drought and reveal a mechanism by which deforestation can compromise the resilience of the Amazon forest system in the face of future climatic extremes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-543
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2018

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