Metcalfe DB, Lobo-do-Vale R, Chaves MM, Maroco JP, Aragão LEOC, Malhi Y, Da Costa AL, Braga AP, Gonçalves PL, De Athaydes J, Da Costa M, Almeida SS, Campbell C, Hurry V, Williams M, Meir P
Impacts of experimentally imposed drought on leaf respiration and morphology in an Amazon rain forest
Functional Ecology: 2010 24:524-533


1. The Amazon region may experience increasing moisture limitation over this century. Leaf dark respiration (R) is a key component of the Amazon rain forest carbon (C) cycle, but relatively little is known about its sensitivity to drought.

2. Here, we present measurements of R standardized to 25 °C and leaf morphology from different canopy heights over 5 years at a rain forest subject to a large-scale through-fall reduction (TFR) experiment, and nearby, unmodified Control forest, at the Caxiuanã reserve in the eastern Amazon.

3. In all five post-treatment measurement campaigns, mean R at 25 °C was elevated in the TFR forest compared to the Control forest experiencing normal rainfall. After 5 years of the TFR treatment, R per unit leaf area and mass had increased by 65% and 42%, respectively, relative to pre-treatment means. In contrast, leaf area index (L) in the TFR forest was consistently lower than the Control, falling by 23% compared to the pre-treatment mean, largely because of a decline in specific leaf area (S).

4. The consistent and significant effects of the TFR treatment on R, L and S suggest that severe drought events in the Amazon, of the kind that may occur more frequently in future, could cause a substantial increase in canopy carbon dioxide emissions from this ecosystem to the atmosphere.

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