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The future of the tropical forest carbon sink


Problems to be solved
The Amazonian carbon sink exerts a key influence on the global carbon cycle but the sink strength is not very well known. Any changes in the Amazonian sink strength of carbon resulting from changes in climate or land -use will have a significant impact on global climate and are therefore of direct relevance to the formulation of global and European environmental and climate policies.
Scientific objectives and approach
The overarching objective of the project is to examine the parameters and mechanism that determine the magnitude and the behaviour of the Amazonian forest carbon sink and to provide improved estimates of the rate carbon sequestration by forest and savannah at a number of sites across the Amazon Basin. The second aim is to advance understanding of the mechanisms of carbon fixation and how this may be constrained by climate variability, availability of nutrients, and changing rates of N deposition. The final goal is to provide estimates of the current and future behaviour of the carbon sink of the Amazon region and disseminate these results to stakeholders. The first package studies climatic controls on the carbon cycle by determining how variations in climate at seasonal and inter-annual time scales, including ENSO events, control fluxes and sequestration rates of carbon. Flux measurements will be carried out at six field sites in different forest types and savannah. The second package studies carbon uptake and release processes to quantify the fate of assimilated carbon. The future of the carbon sink may well be related to the availability of nutrients and soil moisture. The factors, which control the carbon fluxes and carbon pools, will be studied in packages 3 and 4, respectively. Complementary to these measurements long-term historical trends in the forests biomass will be studied by recent using 41 forest plots along an 2500 km E-W transect and by tree ring analysis. The data collected will be used to develop and calibrate models and develop aggregation techniques. This will allow us to model the basin-wide carbon fluxes for different scenarios to study land use and climate change effects on the carbon sink.
Expected impacts
The project will examine controls that determine the magnitude and behaviour of the Amazonian rainforest carbon sink, provide improved estimates of the current rate of carbon sequestration by forest and savannah, and predict likely future behaviour and implications of the sink for global and European carbon management policies.

Call for proposal

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Droevendaalsesteeg 3a
6700 AA Wageningen

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EU contribution
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Participants (12)