Biomass recovery in Amazon rainforest

Shifts in plant functional traits enable biomass recovery in Amazon rainforests.

Plant trait diversity in Amazon rainforests

The interplay of gap dynamics in forest patches, trade-offs between plant functional traits of the leaf-economics and stem-economics spectrum, and plant trait diversity (the diversity emerging from the assembly of trees with individual functional traits) allows to reproduce observed distribution of plant functional traits in the Amazon rainforest.

Under climate change, air temperatures rise and the climate gets drier. In the extreme case, the climate could flip to these new conditions and remain there. How would plant trait diversity react? We found that a trait shift towards more drought-adapted trees within the currently observed trait ranges would allow biomass to recover in the centuries after the impact (post-impact time, in new climate equilibrium) and the resilient area would be larger in size than in low-diversity forests. Towards the end of the simulation, the tropical rainforest could be dominated by trees with higher wood densities and lower specific leaf area.

Supplementary movie in Sakschewski, B., von Bloh, W., Boit, A. et al. Resilience of Amazon forests emerges from plant trait diversity. Nature Clim Change 6, 1032–1036 (2016).