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Amazon: Monitoring climate change

A German-Brazilian research team is assessing the effects of increased CO2 levels on the Amazon rainforest.

Juliane Menezes befestigt Markierungen an Blättern, um deren Lebenszyklus zu verfolgen.
Juliane Menezes attaches markers to leaves to track their life cycle.

The Amazon rainforest is known for its great biodiversity. At the same time, it is one of the largest CO2 reservoirs on earth and thus has an enormous influence on the global climate. But the world's largest rainforest is threatened by rising temperatures and deforestation. Researchers are therefore investigating how climate change affects the potential of the tropical forest and, above all, how long it can continue to act as a CO2 reservoir. Together with Brazilian colleagues, researchers from the Technical University of Munich want to answer these questions in the AmazonFACE (Free Air CO2 Enrichment) project.

Fertilize trees in the rainforest with CO2

In order to sound out the limit of the Amazon as a CO2 sink, the researchers plan to specifically increase carbon dioxide concentrations in the middle of the rainforest and collect data. Experiments with small trees from the rainforest are still being carried out in open climate chambers, each two meters high and two meters in diameter. However, the prototype will soon be replaced by several rings of ten filigree steel towers each, which will fertilize the trees with CO2. The towers will be equipped with nozzles from the ground up to the tree tops.

The experiment will take place on an area of about 25,000 hectares, where the Brazilian Amazon Research Institute (INPA) has been operating an experimental station for 20 years. While the Brazilian team is responsible for CO2 fertilization and observes how leaves, roots and soil change as a result, the Munich scientists are responsible for ecosystem modelling.

Predicting global climate change

"We have already discovered that the models we have used to date in research worldwide neglect important processes," says Anja Rammig, professor at TU Munich. "With the AmazonFACE experiment, we will gain many new insights for model development. They will help to make more reliable predictions relevant to global climate projections."




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