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Reduced rainfall increases the risk of forest dieback, while in return forest loss might intensify regional droughts. The consequences of this vegetation–atmosphere feedback for the stability of the Amazon forest are still unclear. Here we show that the risk of self-amplified Amazon forest loss increases nonlinearly with dry-season intensification. We apply a novel complex-network approach, in which Amazon forest patches are linked by observation-based atmospheric water fluxes. Our results suggest that the risk of self-amplified forest loss is reduced with increasing heterogeneity in the response of forest patches to reduced rainfall. Under dry-season Amazonian rainfall reductions, comparable to Last Glacial Maximum conditions, additional forest loss due to self-amplified effects occurs in 10–13% of the Amazon basin. Although our findings do not indicate that the projected rainfall changes for the end of the twenty-first century will lead to complete Amazon dieback, they suggest that frequent extreme drought events have the potential to destabilize large parts of the Amazon forest.
Research news | 2018-04-19
New study of UNESCO biosphere reserves sheds light on how people learn to live with social-ecological complexity
Research news | 2018-04-16
Entrepreneurs, NGO’s and others working on transforming the agricultural system into a more sustainable one struggle amid dominant focus on growth-oriented strategies
Research news | 2018-04-12
New documentary film highlights social-ecological challenges facing Ethiopia's food production systems
Educational news | 2018-04-12
Will help practitioners use resilience thinking as a tool to improve development practice
General news | 2018-04-12
The Stockholm Resilience Centre launches new voluntary system for staff to set targets to reduce emissions
Research news | 2018-04-11
Conservation efforts in tropical forest communities have great potential but must avoid exacerbating income inequalities