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Concept: Amazon Rainforest


Understanding forest loss patterns in Amazonia, the Earth’s largest rainforest region, is critical for effective forest conservation and management. Following the most detailed analysis to date, spanning the entire Amazon and extending over a 14-year period (2001-2014), we reveal significant shifts in deforestation dynamics of Amazonian forests. Firstly, hotspots of Amazonian forest loss are moving away from the southern Brazilian Amazon to Peru and Bolivia. Secondly, while the number of new large forest clearings (>50 ha) has declined significantly over time (46%), the number of new small clearings (<1 ha) increased by 34% between 2001-2007 and 2008-2014. Thirdly, we find that small-scale low-density forest loss expanded markedly in geographical extent during 2008-2014. This shift presents an important and alarming new challenge for forest conservation, despite reductions in overall deforestation rates.

Concepts: Amazon River, Brazil, South America, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Amazon Basin, Deforestation, Amazon Rainforest


Several independent lines of evidence suggest that Amazon forests have provided a significant carbon sink service, and also that the Amazon carbon sink in intact, mature forests may now be threatened as a result of different processes. There has however been no work done to quantify non-land-use-change forest carbon fluxes on a national basis within Amazonia, or to place these national fluxes and their possible changes in the context of the major anthropogenic carbon fluxes in the region. Here we present a first attempt to interpret results from ground-based monitoring of mature forest carbon fluxes in a biogeographically, politically, and temporally differentiated way. Specifically, using results from a large long-term network of forest plots, we estimate the Amazon biomass carbon balance over the last three decades for the different regions and nine nations of Amazonia, and evaluate the magnitude and trajectory of these differentiated balances in relation to major national anthropogenic carbon emissions.

Concepts: Climate change, Amazon River, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, Amazon Rainforest, Slash and burn, Peruvian Amazon


Atmospheric carbon dioxide records indicate that the land surface has acted as a strong global carbon sink over recent decades, with a substantial fraction of this sink probably located in the tropics, particularly in the Amazon. Nevertheless, it is unclear how the terrestrial carbon sink will evolve as climate and atmospheric composition continue to change. Here we analyse the historical evolution of the biomass dynamics of the Amazon rainforest over three decades using a distributed network of 321 plots. While this analysis confirms that Amazon forests have acted as a long-term net biomass sink, we find a long-term decreasing trend of carbon accumulation. Rates of net increase in above-ground biomass declined by one-third during the past decade compared to the 1990s. This is a consequence of growth rate increases levelling off recently, while biomass mortality persistently increased throughout, leading to a shortening of carbon residence times. Potential drivers for the mortality increase include greater climate variability, and feedbacks of faster growth on mortality, resulting in shortened tree longevity. The observed decline of the Amazon sink diverges markedly from the recent increase in terrestrial carbon uptake at the global scale, and is contrary to expectations based on models.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Amazon River, Brazil, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Deforestation, Amazon Rainforest


Eight new species of Charinus Simon, 1892 are described for the Brazilian Amazon, from the states of Pará (C. bichuetteae sp. n., C. bonaldoi sp. n., C. carajas sp. n., C. ferreus sp. n., C. guto sp. n. and C. orientalis sp. n.) and Amazonas (Charinus brescoviti sp. n. and C. ricardoi sp. n.). All new species can be differentiated from the other species of the genus by the number of pseudo-articles in basitibia IV, the presence/absence of median eyes, and the shape of the female gonopod. Brazil now becomes the country with the largest diversity of Amblypygi in the world, with 25 known species. Half of the new species described here have a high degree of endangerment: C. bichuetteae sp. n. is threatened by the flood caused by the hydroelectric dam of Belo Monte, and C. carajas sp. n., C. ferreus sp. n. and C. orientalis sp. n. are endangered by the iron mining in Carajás municipality and surroundings. The Charinus species here described are endemic to the Amazon Region, so in order to assure their preservation, it is strongly recommended a special care with their habitats (type localities) which are facing increasing rates of destruction and deforestation.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Amazon River, Brazil, Amazon Basin, Manaus, Deforestation, Amazon Rainforest, Amblypygi


Genetic data in studies of systematics of Amazonian amphibians frequently reveal that purportedly widespread single species in reality comprise species complexes. This means that real species richness may be significantly higher than current estimates. Here we combine genetic, morphological, and bioacoustic data to assess the phylogenetic relationships and species boundaries of two Amazonian species of the Dendropsophus leucophyllatus species group: D. leucophyllatus and D. triangulum. Our results uncovered the existence of five confirmed and four unconfirmed candidate species. Among the confirmed candidate species, three have available names: Dendropsophus leucophyllatus, Dendropsophus triangulum, and Dendropsophus reticulatus, this last being removed from the synonymy of D. triangulum. A neotype of D. leucophyllatus is designated. We describe the remaining two confirmed candidate species, one from Bolivia and another from Peru. All confirmed candidate species are morphologically distinct and have much smaller geographic ranges than those previously reported for D. leucophyllatus and D. triangulum sensu lato. Dendropsophus leucophyllatus sensu stricto occurs in the Guianan region. Dendropsophus reticulatus comb. nov. corresponds to populations in the Amazon basin of Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru previously referred to as D. triangulum. Dendropsophus triangulum sensu stricto is the most widely distributed species; it occurs in Amazonian Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, reaching the state of Pará. We provide accounts for all described species including an assessment of their conservation status.

Concepts: Species, Amazon River, Brazil, South America, Amazon Basin, Andes, Peru, Amazon Rainforest


The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is the main driver of interannual climate extremes in Amazonia and other tropical regions. The current 2015/2016 EN event was expected to be as strong as the EN of the century in 1997/98, with extreme heat and drought over most of Amazonian rainforests. Here we show that this protracted EN event, combined with the regional warming trend, was associated with unprecedented warming and a larger extent of extreme drought in Amazonia compared to the earlier strong EN events in 1982/83 and 1997/98. Typical EN-like drought conditions were observed only in eastern Amazonia, whilst in western Amazonia there was an unusual wetting. We attribute this wet-dry dipole to the location of the maximum sea surface warming on the Central equatorial Pacific. The impacts of this climate extreme on the rainforest ecosystems remain to be documented and are likely to be different to previous strong EN events.

Concepts: Amazon River, Brazil, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Amazon Basin, Deforestation, Amazon Rainforest, Peruvian Amazon


Over the last 150 years, a little South American fish with alleged unsavory habits has become the stuff legends are made of. With growing visitor numbers to the Amazon basin, the question of whether the animal poses a threat to the many travelers to the region arises.

Concepts: English-language films, Amazon River, Brazil, South America, Amazon Basin, Portuguese language, Peru, Amazon Rainforest


The fine particles serving as cloud condensation nuclei in pristine Amazonian rainforest air consist mostly of secondary organic aerosol. Their origin is enigmatic, however, because new particle formation in the atmosphere is not observed. Here, we show that the growth of organic aerosol particles can be initiated by potassium-salt-rich particles emitted by biota in the rainforest. These particles act as seeds for the condensation of low- or semi-volatile organic compounds from the atmospheric gas phase or multiphase oxidation of isoprene and terpenes. Our findings suggest that the primary emission of biogenic salt particles directly influences the number concentration of cloud condensation nuclei and affects the microphysics of cloud formation and precipitation over the rainforest.

Concepts: Water, Precipitation, Atmosphere, Sulfate, Cloud, Amazon Rainforest, Cloud seeding, Cloud condensation nuclei


Over 450 pre-Columbian (pre-AD 1492) geometric ditched enclosures (“geoglyphs”) occupy ∼13,000 km(2) of Acre state, Brazil, representing a key discovery of Amazonian archaeology. These huge earthworks were concealed for centuries under terra firme (upland interfluvial) rainforest, directly challenging the “pristine” status of this ecosystem and its perceived vulnerability to human impacts. We reconstruct the environmental context of geoglyph construction and the nature, extent, and legacy of associated human impacts. We show that bamboo forest dominated the region for ≥6,000 y and that only small, temporary clearings were made to build the geoglyphs; however, construction occurred within anthropogenic forest that had been actively managed for millennia. In the absence of widespread deforestation, exploitation of forest products shaped a largely forested landscape that survived intact until the late 20th century.

Concepts: Ecosystem, Forest, Brazil, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Global warming, Amazon Rainforest


Ninety-five specimens from 13 species of lizard collected during a herpetofaunal monitoring programme of the Faxinal II power plant, municipality of Aripuanã, state of Mato Grosso, Brazil (southern Amazon region) were examined for helminths. A total of 21 helminth species (16 Nematoda, 1 Cestoda and 4 Trematoda) were recovered, with an overall prevalence of 67.37%. Seventeen new host records and seven new locality records are reported. A low number of specialists and core helminth species were found. Lizard body size was positively correlated with both the total number of helminth species and individuals. Active foragers exhibited higher helminth diversity. However, sit-and-wait foragers, especially Plica plica, had similar diversity values as active foragers and harboured more helminth species. The degree of similarity in helminth fauna was higher among closely related host species.

Concepts: Amazon River, Brazil, Amazon Basin, Portuguese language, Mato Grosso, Amazon Rainforest, Venezuela, Rondônia