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Windthrow characteristics and their regional association with rainfall, soil, and surface elevation in the Amazon


Windthrows (trees uprooted and broken by winds) are common across the Amazon. They range in size from single trees to large gaps that lead to changes in forest dynamics, composition, structure, and carbon balance. Yet, the current understanding of the spatial variability of windthrows is limited. By integrating remote sensing data and geospatial analysis, we present the first study to examine the occurrence, area, and direction of windthrows and the control that environmental variables exert on them across the whole Amazon. Windthrows are more frequent and larger in the northwestern Amazon (Peru and Colombia), with the central Amazon (Brazil) being another hot spot of windthrows. The predominant direction of windthrows is westward. Rainfall, surface elevation, and soil characteristics explain the variability (20%-50%) of windthrows but their effects vary regionally. A better understanding of the spatial dynamics of windthrows will improve understanding of the functioning of Amazon forests.

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