Concepts, Reviews and Syntheses


, Volume 143, Issue 4, pp 483-500

First online:

Amazonia and the modern carbon cycle: lessons learned

  • Jean Pierre H. B. OmettoAffiliated withLaboratório de Ecologia Isotópica—CENA/USP Email author 
  • , Antonio D. NobreAffiliated withINPA escritório de representação no INPE, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia
  • , Humberto R. RochaAffiliated withDepartamento de Ciências Atmosféricas, Instituto Astronômico, Geofísico e de Ciências Atmosféricas, Universidade de São Paulo
  • , Paulo ArtaxoAffiliated withInstituto de Física, Universidade de São Paulo
  • , Luiz A. MartinelliAffiliated withLaboratório de Ecologia Isotópica—CENA/USP

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In this paper, we review some critical issues regarding carbon cycling in Amazonia, as revealed by several studies conducted in the Large Scale Biosphere Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA). We evaluate both the contribution of this magnificent biome for the global net primary productivity/net ecosystem exchange (NPP/NEE) and the feedbacks of climate change on the dynamics of Amazonia. In order to place Amazonia in a global perspective and make the carbon flux obtained through the LBA project comparable with global carbon budgets, we extrapolated NPP/NEE values found by LBA studies to the entire area of the Brazilian Amazon covered by rainforest. The carbon emissions due to land use changes for the tropical regions of the world produced values from 0.96 to 2.4 Pg C year−1, while atmospheric CO2 inversion models have recently indicated that tropical lands in the Americas could be exchanging a net 0.62±1.15 Pg C year−1 with the atmosphere. The difference calculated from these two methods would imply a local sink of approximately 1.6–1.7 Pg C year−1, or a source of 0.85 ton C ha−1 year−1. Using our crude extrapolation of LBA values for the Amazon forests (5 million km2) we estimate a range for the C flux in the region of −3.0 to 0.75 Pg C year−1. The exercise here does not account for environmental variability across the region, but it is an important driver for present and future studies linking local process (i.e. nutrient availability, photosynthetic capacity, and so forth) to global and regional dynamic approaches.


Amazonia Carbon cycle Deforestation Climate changes