Asynchronous Amazon forest canopy phenology indicates adaptation to both water and light availability

Matthew O. Jones, John S. Kimball, Ramakrishna R. Nemani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Amazon forests represent nearly half of all tropical vegetation biomass and, through photosynthesis and respiration, annually process more than twice the amount of estimated carbon (CO2) from fossil fuel emissions. Yet the seasonality of Amazon canopy cover, and the extent to which seasonal fluctuations in water availability and photosynthetically available radiation influence these processes, is still poorly understood. Implementing six remotely sensed data sets spanning nine years (2003-2011), with reported field and flux tower data, we show that southern equatorial Amazon forests exhibit a distinctive seasonal signal. Seasonal timing of water availability, canopy biomass growth and net leaf flush are asynchronous in regions with short dry seasons and become more synchronous across a west-to-east longitudinal moisture gradient of increasing dry season. Forest cover is responsive to seasonal disparities in both water and solar radiation availability, temporally adjusting net leaf flush to maximize use of these generally abundant resources, while reducing drought susceptibility. An accurate characterization of this asynchronous behavior allows for improved understanding of canopy phenology across contiguous tropical forests and their sensitivity to climate variability and drought.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124021
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • AMSR-E
  • Amazon
  • Phenology
  • Seasonality
  • Tropical forests
  • Vegetation optical depth


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