Research ArticleENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

Amazon rainforest photosynthesis increases in response to atmospheric dryness

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Science Advances  20 Nov 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 47, eabb7232
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb7232

Abstract

Earth system models predict that increases in atmospheric and soil dryness will reduce photosynthesis in the Amazon rainforest, with large implications for the global carbon cycle. Using in situ observations, solar-induced fluorescence, and nonlinear machine learning techniques, we show that, in reality, this is not necessarily the case: In many of the wettest parts of this region, photosynthesis and biomass tend to increase with increased atmospheric dryness, despite the associated reductions in canopy conductance to CO2. These results can be largely explained by changes in canopy properties, specifically, new leaves flushed during the dry season have higher photosynthetic capacity than the leaves they replace, compensating for the negative stomatal response to increased dryness. As atmospheric dryness will increase with climate change, our study highlights the importance of reframing how we represent the response of ecosystem photosynthesis to atmospheric dryness in very wet regions, to accurately quantify the land carbon sink.

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