Mechanistic Processes Controlling Persistent Changes of Forest Canopy Structure After 2005 Amazon Drought
The long-term impact of Amazonian drought on canopy structure has been observed in ground and remote sensing measurements. However, it is still unclear whether it is caused by biotic (e.g., plant structure damage) or environmental (e.g., water deficiency) factors. We used the Community Land Model version 4.5 (CLM4.5) and radar backscatter observations from SeaWinds Scatterometer on board QuikSCAT (QSCAT) satellite to investigate the relative role of biotic and environmental factors in controlling the forest canopy disturbance and recovery processes after the 2005 Amazonian drought. We validated the CLM4.5 simulation of the drought impact and the recovery of leaf carbon (C) pool, an indicator of canopy structure, over southwestern Amazonia with QSCAT backscatter observations, which are sensitive to canopy structure change. We found that the leaf C pool simulated by CLM4.5 recovered to the 2000-2009 mean level (343 g C m-2) in 3 years after a sharp decrease in 2005, consistent with the QSCAT observed slow recovery. Through sensitivity experiments, we found that the slow C recovery was primarily due to biotic factors represented by the canopy damage and reduction of plant C pools. The recovery of soil water and the coupling between water and C pools, which is an environmental factor, only contributes 24% to the leaf C recovery. The results showed (1) the strength of scatterometer backscatter measurements in capturing canopy damage over tropical forests and in validating C cycle models and (2) the biotic factors play the dominant role in regulating the drought induced disturbance and persistent canopy changes in CLM4.5.