Scientists with The Woods Hole Research Center are analyzing the surprising results of the first phase of a drydown experiment occurring in the Amazonian rainforest.
From January 2000 to July 2004, rainfall was excluded from a one-hectare (2.2 acre) plot in the middle of the Tapajós National Forest, in Brazil. A total of 6 feet of rainfall was diverted with six thousand 2’ by 6’ clear plastic panels suspended 3 to 12 feet above the soil. The panels were removed during the five-month dry season each year. To sort out the forest responses to the "umbrellas" from the normal variation in tree growth, tree death, leaf production, and other aspects of forest behavior, researchers compared this dry plot of forest with a similar plot, from which rainfall was not excluded. These two forest plots were compared for a year prior to installation of the plastic panels to register any differences in behavior that already existed when we began the experiment.
According to Daniel C. Nepstad, a senior scientist with The Woods Hole Research Center, "This experiment provides researchers with a peek into the future of this majestic forest, a future that will most likely be drier because of global warming, El Niño episodes, and even the drying effects of rainforest clearing and burning itself."
Elizabeth Bran | EurekAlert!
How much drought can a forest take?
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