Regional atmospheric CO2 inversion reveals seasonal and geographic differences in Amazon net biome exchange

Caroline B. Alden, John B. Miller, Luciana V. Gatti, Manuel M. Gloor, Kaiyu Guan, Anna M. Michalak, Ingrid T. van der Laan-Luijkx, Danielle Touma, Arlyn Andrews, Luana S. Basso, Caio S.C. Correia, Lucas G. Domingues, Joanna Joiner, Maarten C. Krol, Alexei I. Lyapustin, Wouter Peters, Yoichi P. Shiga, Kirk Thoning, Ivar R. van der Velde, Thijs T. van LeeuwenVineet Yadav, Noah S. Diffenbaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding tropical rainforest carbon exchange and its response to heat and drought is critical for quantifying the effects of climate change on tropical ecosystems, including global climate–carbon feedbacks. Of particular importance for the global carbon budget is net biome exchange of CO2 with the atmosphere (NBE), which represents nonfire carbon fluxes into and out of biomass and soils. Subannual and sub-Basin Amazon NBE estimates have relied heavily on process-based biosphere models, despite lack of model agreement with plot-scale observations. We present a new analysis of airborne measurements that reveals monthly, regional-scale (~1–8 × 106 km2) NBE variations. We develop a regional atmospheric CO2 inversion that provides the first analysis of geographic and temporal variability in Amazon biosphere–atmosphere carbon exchange and that is minimally influenced by biosphere model-based first guesses of seasonal and annual mean fluxes. We find little evidence for a clear seasonal cycle in Amazon NBE but do find NBE sensitivity to aberrations from long-term mean climate. In particular, we observe increased NBE (more carbon emitted to the atmosphere) associated with heat and drought in 2010, and correlations between wet season NBE and precipitation (negative correlation) and temperature (positive correlation). In the eastern Amazon, pulses of increased NBE persisted through 2011, suggesting legacy effects of 2010 heat and drought. We also identify regional differences in postdrought NBE that appear related to long-term water availability. We examine satellite proxies and find evidence for higher gross primary productivity (GPP) during a pulse of increased carbon uptake in 2011, and lower GPP during a period of increased NBE in the 2010 dry season drought, but links between GPP and NBE changes are not conclusive. These results provide novel evidence of NBE sensitivity to short-term temperature and moisture extremes in the Amazon, where monthly and sub-Basin estimates have not been previously available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3427-3443
Number of pages17
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Amazon
  • CO
  • climate extremes
  • inverse model
  • terrestrial biosphere
  • tropical carbon exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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