The site of a former forest, some slender, dead tree trucks still stick out of the ground that is now covered with tall grasses and just a few remaining trees.

Carbon and Water Cycling in a Changing Amazon

Research funded by the Balzan Prize awarded to Susan Trumbore.

Concern for the future of Amazon forests results from both climate change and deforestation. The removal of forests increases local surface temperatures because crops and grasses decrease the evaporative cooling offered by deeper‐rooted trees. This in turn reduces the water available for precipitation and further lengthens the dry season. Several studies have suggested that the Amazon is reaching a tipping point, where the existing forests can no longer be sustained. Instead they might increasingly be replaced by savanna‐like ecosystems, with large losses of carbon and biodiversity. This also comes with consequences for the viability of crops that will experience high temperature and longer droughts.

We want to understand whether and how compounding disturbances may drive severe and persistent transformation of forests into highly degraded savanna‐like vegetation. The southern Amazon, where our field site is located, is a perfect location to study this. The Tanguro Ranch is located in the "Arc of deforestation", where it is expected to become hotter and drier in the near future (something that is already underway), and in the zone where forest borders savannas further to south. The region is also home to one of the most dynamic agricultural frontiers in the planet, with large tracts of forests and pasturelands are being replaced by large‐scale mechanized agriculture, which exports most of its soy, cotton, and corn to Europe and China.

Ongoing research measures water and carbon fluxes between forest, agriculture and atmosphere using eddy covariance towers.  



Susan Trumbore
  • +49 3641 57-6110
MPG Publications
Henrik Hartmann
Former groupleader
  • +49 3946 47 4000
MPG Publications
David Herrera Ramírez
  • +49 3641 57-60
MPG Publications

External Partners

Name Institution E-Mail
Paulo Brando IPAM / UC Irvine pbrando[at]uci[dot]edu
Leonardo Maracahipes IPAM
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