A Review in this week’s Nature shows that the southern and eastern Amazon forest is experiencing a transition in energy and water cycles. Preliminary evidence also suggests that the Amazon may be transitioning from a net carbon sink to a net carbon source.
Eric Davidson and colleagues examine recent research on the effects of climate change and disturbances such as deforestation and fire on the functioning of the Amazon Basin. Such research shows that although the Amazon is resilient to individual disturbances, such as drought, multiple disturbances override this resilience. The effects of global and regional climate change interact with land-use change, logging and fire, increasing the vulnerability of forest ecosystems to degradation. This Review provides a framework for understanding the associations between natural variability, drivers of change (such as climate change and human influences), responses and feedbacks in the Amazon Basin.