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    Author(s): Veronika Leitold; Douglas C. Morton; Marcos Longo; Maiza Nara dos-Santos; Michael Keller; Marcos Scaranello
    Date: 2018
    Source: New Phytologist
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: International Institute of Tropical Forestry
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.0 MB)


    Amazon droughts, including the 2015–2016 El Niño, may reduce forest net primary productivity and increase canopy tree mortality, thereby altering both the short- and the longterm net forest carbon balance. Given the broad extent of drought impacts, inventory plots or eddy flux towers may not capture regional variability in forest response to drought. We used multi-temporal airborne Lidar data and field measurements of coarse woody debris to estimate patterns of canopy turnover and associated carbon losses in intact and fragmented forests in the central Brazilian Amazon between 2013–2014 and 2014–2016. Average annualized canopy turnover rates increased by 65% during the drought period in both intact and fragmented forests. The average size and height of turnover events was similar for both time intervals, in contrast to expectations that the 2015–2016 El Niño drought would disproportionally affect large trees. Lidar–biomass relationships between canopy turnover and field measurements of coarse woody debris were modest (R2  0.3), given similar coarse woody debris production and Lidar-derived changes in canopy volume from single tree and multiple branch fall events. Our findings suggest that El Niño conditions accelerated canopy turnover in central Amazon forests, increasing coarse woody debris production by 62% to 1.22 Mg C ha1 yr1 in drought years.

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Leitold, V; Morton, D. C.; Longo, M; dos-Santos, M. N.; Keller, M; Scaranello, M. 2018. El Niño drought increased canopy turnover in Amazon forests. New Phytologist. 219(3): 959-971.


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    allometry, ecosystem models, forest carbon sink, gaps, tropical forest dynamics.

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