Long-term decline of Amazon carbon the sink

R.J.W. Brienen, O.L. Phillips, T. Feldpausch, E. Gloor, T.R. Baker, E.J.M.M. Arets, M. Pena Claros, L. Poorter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

515 Citations (Scopus)


Atmospheric carbon dioxide records indicate that the land surface has acted as a strong global carbon sink over recent decades1, 2, with a substantial fraction of this sink probably located in the tropics3, particularly in the Amazon4. Nevertheless, it is unclear how the terrestrial carbon sink will evolve as climate and atmospheric composition continue to change. Here we analyse the historical evolution of the biomass dynamics of the Amazon rainforest over three decades using a distributed network of 321 plots. While this analysis confirms that Amazon forests have acted as a long-term net biomass sink, we find a long-term decreasing trend of carbon accumulation. Rates of net increase in above-ground biomass declined by one-third during the past decade compared to the 1990s. This is a consequence of growth rate increases levelling off recently, while biomass mortality persistently increased throughout, leading to a shortening of carbon residence times. Potential drivers for the mortality increase include greater climate variability, and feedbacks of faster growth on mortality, resulting in shortened tree longevity5. The observed decline of the Amazon sink diverges markedly from the recent increase in terrestrial carbon uptake at the global scale1, 2, and is contrary to expectations based on models6.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-348
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • tropical rain-forests
  • experimental drought
  • wood productivity
  • tree mortality
  • turnover rates
  • sensitivity
  • biomass
  • growth
  • plots
  • co2


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