New Amazon forest monitoring team: RAINFOR

Global climate change predictions and greenhouse gas models desperately need to be tested in the Amazon, home of 45% of the world's tropical forest. The Amazon Forest Inventory Network (RAINFOR), representing nearly fifty researchers from five Amazonian countries, Europe and the U.S., is a new effort to monitor biomass and dynamics of forests across the entire Amazon basin.

South American forests may be mopping up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere equivalent to the annual fossil fuel emissions of the entire European Union, thus slowing the rate of global climate change.

Climate change and forest fragmentation (Laurance et al. 2002), as well as surprising ecological changes such as newly reported increases in liana densities (Phillips et al. 2002), threaten to turn the Amazon into a major carbon source in the 21st Century, potentially accelerating climate change.

However, such hypotheses have not yet been systematically tested in different forest types across the basin.

RAINFOR, coordinated by Yadvinder Malhi and Oliver Phillips from the U.K., aims to coordinate on-the-ground monitoring of Amazon forests to understand how this vast region responds to these changes.

To better understand how environmental factors operating at different spatial scales influence productivity and dynamics of Amazonian forests, RAINFOR is working with data from three clusters of long-term monitoring plots in the Eastern Amazon near Belem, Santarem and Manaus; in a high rainfall region of the NW Amazon near Iquitos Peru and Ecuador and in the SW Amazon near the base of the Andes. RAINFOR is also identifying other understudied areas of the Amazon basin where work is needed to improve model predictions.

The project will encourage researchers to adopt common protocols for data collection and will work to overcome methodological errors in existing data sets to help compare sites.

RAINFOR is part of the larger CARBONSINK project,

Contact: Dr. William Laurance
202-786-2094 x8252
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

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