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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Remotely sensed heat anomalies linked with Amazonian forest biomass declines


The occurrence of two major Amazonian droughts in 2005 and 2010 underscores the need for improved understanding of how drought affects tropical forest. During both droughts, MODIS land surface temperature data detected anomalously high daytime and nighttime canopy temperatures throughout drought-affected regions. Daytime thermal anomalies explained 38.6% of the variability in the reduction of aboveground living biomass (p < 0.01; n = 17) in drought-affected forest sites. Multivariate linear models of heat and moisture stress explained a greater proportion of the variability, at 65.1% (p < 0.01; n = 17), providing substantively greater explanatory power than precipitation-only models. Our results suggest that heat stress played an important role in the two droughts and that models should incorporate both heat and moisture stress to predict drought effects on tropical forests.

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