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Friday, April 22, 2011

Satellites show effect of 2010 drought on Amazon forests

A new study has revealed widespread reductions in the greenness of Amazon forests caused by the last year's record-breaking drought.

"The greenness levels of Amazonian vegetation – a measure of its health – decreased dramatically over an area more than three and one-half times the size of Texas and did not recover to normal levels, even after the drought ended in late October 2010," says Liang Xu of Boston University and the study's lead author.

The drought sensitivity of Amazon rainforests is a subject of intense study. Computer models predict that in a changing climate with warmer temperatures and altered rainfall patterns, the ensuing moisture stress could cause some of the rainforests to be replaced by grasslands or woody savannas. This would release the carbon stored in the rotting wood into the atmosphere, and could accelerate global warming. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned similar droughts could be more frequent in the Amazon region in the future. (read more)