A trait-based understanding of Latin American biodiversity programme forest biodiversity and resilience (ARBOLES project)

Countries: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru

Partners: UK: 4 universities (Leeds, Lancaster, Oxford and Imperial College London) and the Natural History Museum; Latin America: Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (Argentina), Universidad Austral de Chile (Chile), National Institute for Space Research (Brazil), Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana (Peru)

Summary: The Amazon rainforest occupies a uniquely important place in the Earth System. Spanning an area of 5.5 million km, the Amazon’s forests are the most biodiverse on the planet, absorb 5-10% of global CO2 emissions and sustain rainfall regionally.  However, the invaluable ecosystem and climate services provided by Amazon rainforests are currently under severe threat from deforestation and changing climate. Concerns have been raised that continued forest loss and climate change may lead to a tipping point, beyond which forests would no longer be sustained and replaced by savanna vegetation. The global change threat to the Amazon is most pronounced in southern Amazonia, where deforestation, maximum temperature increases and reduced dry season rainfall have been markedly more pronounced than other Amazon regions.  An understanding of how forests in southern Amazonia are changing and of their sensitivity to global change stressors is imperative for improved prediction and for climate-smart conservation of Amazon forests more generally. ARBOLES aims to understand the plant functional trait basis of LATAM forest biodiversity and resilience, by investigating the sensitivity of important southern Amazonian tree species to two key climatic stressors, heat and drought.