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Open AccessArticle

A Spatial and Temporal Risk Assessment of the Impacts of El Niño on the Tropical Forest Carbon Cycle: Theoretical Framework, Scenarios, and Implications

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School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
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School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
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Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Atmosphere 2019, 10(10), 588; https://doi.org/10.3390/atmos10100588
Received: 30 August 2019 / Revised: 16 September 2019 / Accepted: 24 September 2019 / Published: 27 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Meteorological and Hydrological Droughts)
Strong El Niño events alter tropical climates and may lead to a negative carbon balance in tropical forests and consequently a disruption to the global carbon cycle. The complexity of tropical forests and the lack of data from these regions hamper the assessment of the spatial distribution of El Niño impacts on these ecosystems. Typically, maps of climate anomaly are used to detect areas of greater risk, ignoring baseline climate conditions and forest cover. Here, we integrated climate anomalies from the 1982–1983, 1997–1998, and 2015–2016 El Niño events with baseline climate and forest edge extent, using a risk assessment approach to hypothetically assess the spatial and temporal distributions of El Niño risk over tropical forests under several risk scenarios. The drivers of risk varied temporally and spatially. Overall, the relative risk of El Niño has been increasing driven mainly by intensified forest fragmentation that has led to a greater chance of fire ignition and increased mean annual air temperatures. We identified areas of repeated high risk, where conservation efforts and fire control measures should be focused to avoid future forest degradation and negative impacts on the carbon cycle. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon cycle; physiological thresholds; fire; forest fragmentation; climate change; climate anomalies; drought; tropical forests; biogeography; El Niño carbon cycle; physiological thresholds; fire; forest fragmentation; climate change; climate anomalies; drought; tropical forests; biogeography; El Niño
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Esquivel-Muelbert, A.; Bennett, A.C.; Sullivan, M.J.P.; Baker, J.C.A.; Gavish, Y.; Johnson, M.O.; Wang, Y.; Chambers-Ostler, A.; Lisli Giannichi, M.; Gomes, L.; Kalamandeen, M.; Charan Pattnayak, K.; Fauset, S. A Spatial and Temporal Risk Assessment of the Impacts of El Niño on the Tropical Forest Carbon Cycle: Theoretical Framework, Scenarios, and Implications. Atmosphere 2019, 10, 588.

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    Doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.9896339
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