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Doughty C.E.,University of Oxford | Metcalfe D.B.,Lund University | Girardin C.A.J.,University of Oxford | Amezquita F.F.,National University of Costa Rica | And 11 more authors.
Global Biogeochemical Cycles | Year: 2015

Changes to the carbon cycle in tropical forests could affect global climate, but predicting such changes has been previously limited by lack of field-based data. Here we show seasonal cycles of the complete carbon cycle for 14, 1ha intensive carbon cycling plots which we separate into three regions: humid lowland, highlands, and dry lowlands. Our data highlight three trends: (1) there is differing seasonality of total net primary productivity (NPP) with the highlands and dry lowlands peaking in the dry season and the humid lowland sites peaking in the wet season, (2) seasonal reductions in wood NPP are not driven by reductions in total NPP but by carbon during the dry season being preferentially allocated toward either roots or canopy NPP, and (3) there is a temporal decoupling between total photosynthesis and total carbon usage (plant carbon expenditure). This decoupling indicates the presence of nonstructural carbohydrates which may allow growth and carbon to be allocated when it is most ecologically beneficial rather than when it is most environmentally available. ©2015. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Source


News Article
Site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment

The Amazon has it bad, but the Cerrado may have it even worse. After all, at least you’ve actually heard of the Amazon. The Cerrado isn’t as big, but it is still one of the largest and most important ecosystems in one of the largest and most environmentally rich countries on Earth — Brazil. It’s an enormous region of dry forests and shrubs that hosts jaguars, rare birds and thousands of unique plants and makes up about one-fifth of Brazil’s total area. “The Cerrado, the central savannas, is far more threatened than the Amazon because that biome has been out of sight,” says André Guimarães, executive director of Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute. “These are the largest biomes in Brazil — the Amazon and the Cerrado, the central savanna. These two biomes, they represent more than 70 percent of the Brazilian territory.” The word “savanna” can be a little misleading in the case of the Cerrado — the majority of the native vegetation consists not of open grassland, but rather relatively dry but woody forests and scrubland. The Portuguese word “cerrado” actually translates as “closed,” “thick” or “dense.” But the Cerrado has lost more than half of its native vegetation, by some estimates, and has much less legal protection than the Amazon. As a result, the region has seen major agricultural expansion, a trend that is expected to continue. “The Amazon is around 18 percent deforested, the Cerrado is around 50 percent deforested,” Guimarães continues.  “That’s where most of the grain production from Brazil comes from. The Brazilian government has put a lot of effort into Amazon conservation in recent years. So in terms of being threatened, the Cerrado is even more than the Amazon.” “It’s a totally different ballgame. It’s essentially Brazil’s Midwest,” says Stephanie Spera, a Brown University graduate student who was lead author of a new study in Global Change Biology showing just how dramatically the Cerrado is losing its native trees and vegetation and how that, in turn, is probably driving the decline in rainfall. This loss of rain not only hurts agriculture — which, ironically, is what the land is being cleared for — but may also actually starve the adjoining Amazon of much-needed rains. (The work was published with collaborators from Brown, the University of Vermont in Burlington and the Woods Hole Research Center.) Spera’s study used satellite imagery to examine changes in Matopiba, a region of the Cerrado that crosses four Brazilian states, tracking agricultural expansion. It found that from 2003 to 2013, cropland in this part of the Cerrado boomed, adding 2.3 million hectares in area, roughly the size of New Jersey. Seventy-four percent of the new land converted to agriculture was, originally, native Cerrado ecosystem, the research suggested. And the study found that as this has happened, evapotranspiration — in which plants and soils give up water to the air — declined, driving down rainfall. The study found that in 2013, 3 percent less water was recycled by the region — an amount adding up to 14 billion tons. That could have huge consequences, within the Cerrado and beyond it — it borders, for instance, on the Amazon to its northwest. “If you affect the amount of water that comes up, you’re going to affect the amount of water that comes down. So if less of that is transported over the Amazon, you have less rain,” Spera said. One reason this occurs is that there is a strong rainy-season-and-dry-season cycle in this region, and native Cerrado vegetation, naturally adapted to such a regime, can draw deep underground water through its roots even when there is little or no rain. “If you have a fallow agricultural field, there’s no water to bring up,” Spera says. The story is in some ways quite similar to what is happening in the Amazon, where scientists also fear that the loss of too many trees will weaken the hydrological cycle of the region — leading to less rain and, at times, major droughts. Those, in turn, can drive fires and further tree loss. One key debated issue is whether stronger attempts to protect the Amazon of late have pushed deforestation elsewhere. Brazil has been widely celebrated for reducing deforestation over the past decade or decade and a half, although levels have ticked up again more recently. “Part of this reduction in the deforestation rate, there is a leakage of deforestation to the Cerrado,” says Paulo Moutinho, an expert with Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute, although he emphasized that it is very difficult to determine just how much Cerrado deforestation actually represents spillover or leakage from the Amazon. Still, the new study similarly embraces the idea that “increased deforestation governance in Brazil’s Amazon tropical forest and land scarcity in older frontier regions have led both farmers, states, and the federal government to seek out new areas for development.” It also observes that the presence of 40 million additional hectares of land in the Cerrado that can be legally deforested makes “continued exploitation of this region, rather than the much more protected Amazon, likely in the coming decades.” The study does find one possible middle ground between rampant agricultural expansion and strict Cerrado preservation. It finds that the practice of double-cropping — planting, say, soy followed by corn — actually reduces the problem of Cerrado water loss. This suggests that agricultural management, in addition to stricter environmental protections, can help rescue at least some of the lost rain. “This region is so dynamic, but no one is giving it the attention it deserves,” Spera says. Alas, given the massive corruption scandal — paired with a harsh recession and currency devaluation — that has engulfed the regime of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and threatens her with impeachment, it seems unlikely that environmental protections are at the front of many minds at the moment.


Stickler C.M.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | Nepstad D.C.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | Azevedo A.A.,Institute Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia | McGrath D.G.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | McGrath D.G.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2013

Land-use regulations are a critical component of forest governance and conservation strategies, but their effectiveness in shaping landholder behaviour is poorly understood.We conducted a spatial and temporal analysis of the Brazilian ForestCode (BFC) to understand the patterns of regulatory compliance over time and across changes in the policy, and the implications of these compliance patterns for the perceived costs to landholders and environmental performance of agricultural landscapes in the southern Amazon state ofMato Grosso. Landholdings tended to remain in compliance or not according to their status at the beginning of the study period. The perceived economic burden of BFC compliance on soya bean and beef producers (US$3-5.6 billion in net present value of the land) may in part explain the massive, successful campaign launched by the farm lobby to change the BFC. The ecological benefits of compliance (e.g. greater connectivity and carbon) with the BFC are diffuse and do not compete effectively with the economic benefits of non-compliance that are perceived by landholders.Volatile regulation of land-use decisions that affect billions in economic rent that could be captured is an inadequate forest governance instrument; effectiveness of such regulations may increase when implemented in tandem with positive incentives for forest conservation. © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. Source


Stickler C.M.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | Nepstad D.C.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | Azevedo A.A.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | McGrath D.G.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute
Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences | Year: 2013

Land-use regulations are a critical component of forest governance and conservation strategies, but their effectiveness in shaping landholder behaviour is poorly understood. We conducted a spatial and temporal analysis of the Brazilian Forest Code (BFC) to understand the patterns of regulatory compliance over time and across changes in the policy, and the implications of these compliance patterns for the perceived costs to landholders and environmental performance of agricultural landscapes in the southern Amazon state of Mato Grosso. Landholdings tended to remain in compliance or not according to their status at the beginning of the study period. The perceived economic burden of BFC compliance on soya bean and beef producers (US$3-5.6 billion in net present value of the land) may in part explain the massive, successful campaign launched by the farm lobby to change the BFC. The ecological benefits of compliance (e.g. greater connectivity and carbon) with the BFC are diffuse and do not compete effectively with the economic benefits of non-compliance that are perceived by landholders. Volatile regulation of land-use decisions that affect billions in economic rent that could be captured is an inadequate forest governance instrument; effectiveness of such regulations may increase when implemented in tandem with positive incentives for forest conservation. Source


Moutinho P.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | Martins O.S.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | Christovam M.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | Lima A.,Amazon Environmental Research Institute | And 2 more authors.
Carbon Management | Year: 2011

Brazil has exercised a leadership in the International scene about climate change mitigation and adaptation. Internally, it has been demonstrating institutional, legal and technical capacity to monitor and reduce deforestation in the Amazon, capacities also required to the development of a national Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) system. In this article, we present the progress on the REDD+ debate under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Brazilian government trajectory towards a positive REDD+ agenda. We also discuss the relevant Brazilian legislation that can support a REDD+ regime: the National Policy for Climate Change, the Amazon state plans for deforestation reduction and the current debate and proposal of a REDD+ regime in Brazil, discussing their contexts, threats and opportunities. Funding opportunities are also discussed, with emphasis on the role of the Amazon Fund on fostering the REDD+ activities in Brazil. At the end, we propose a mechanism of REDD+ benefits sharing, based on a stock-target and flow approach. © 2011 Future Science Ltd. Source

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