July 2002

From NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office

NASA-funded scientists join others to explore tropical rainforests

NASA-funded scientists and others from around the world are gathering in Brazil at an international conference to discuss research and discoveries of how the Amazon ecosystem works.

The 2nd International Large Scale Biosphere Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA) Scientific Conference, is being held in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil from July 7 th through the 10th. The LBA experiment is an international research initiative led by Brazil.

Scientists from around the world have been studying how changes in land use and climate in the tropical rainforests and other areas of the Amazon will affect the biological, chemical and physical functioning of the region, including its sustainability and its influence over the global climate.

"The LBA project is studying rainforests and their surrounding ecosystems such as those in Brazil because they have long been considered important to the world's carbon balance," said Michael Keller of the University of New Hampshire, the LBA project lead.

There are a number of field campaigns occurring in the Amazon this summer and beyond. Below are some examples:

1) Studying the carbon balance in the Amazon region

Current measurements give scientists hints about the carbon balance in the Amazon, and how different areas and types of land cover act as carbon sinks or sources, but they lack a regional view. Pending agreement with Brazil, in April 2003 (a wet, high water period) and October 2003 (a dry, low water period), the LBA-ECO group plans to fly a University of North Dakota research aircraft across the Brazilian Amazon region. The plane will be fitted with sophisticated chemical sensors from Harvard University to measure concentrations of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

Combining in-flight chemistry results with models of atmospheric transport, contributed by collaborators at the University of Sao Paolo (USP), the combined group will gain two snapshots of carbon flux from local to regional scales.

LBA-ECO contacts on this project:
     Steve Wofsy, Harvard University, Email: [email protected]
     Maria Assuncao Silva Dias, USP, Email: [email protected]

2. Using satellites to determine extent and damage of logging

Logging is a growing land practice in Brazil's Amazon, but the area of forest annually affected by selective logging is hotly contested by scientists. Selective logging, where only some of the trees in the forest are harvested, has been difficult to quantify across the region. Brazilian investigators from EMBRAPA, the Fundacao Floresta Tropical (a Brazilian NGO) and US investigators from Stanford University and the USDA Forest Service are teaming up to interpret Landsat satellite images to measure both the extent of logging and the canopy damage caused. These studies are closely tied to studies of the carbon balance of logging.

In a related experiment, researchers from the University of California, Irvine, USP and Harvard are comparing the carbon balance from eddy flux towers in logged and intact forests outside of Santarem, Para, Brazil.

LBA-ECO contacts on this project:
     Greg Asner, Stanford University, Email: [email protected]
     Natalino Silva, EMBRAPA, Email: [email protected]
     Michael Keller, USDA Forest Service, Email: [email protected]
     Johan Zweede, Fundacao Floresta Tropical, Email: [email protected]

3. Assessing the costs and effects of fires across the Brazilian Amazon, by satellite and on the ground

Fire is a major force shaping the Amazonian landscapes. For land managers with moderate means, fire is the only affordable way to clear land and maintain agro-pastoral systems. However, intentional fires often escape from prescribed burn areas, damaging tree crops, fences, forests and even homes. Fire damage and fire prevention are a growing concern on the Amazon frontier. In addition, the use of fire brings adverse health effects to the local populace, closes airports and even affects local weather. Fires are also important sources of atmospheric trace gases and aerosols. LBA-ECO investigators will continue their research to assess the effects of fires across the Brazilian Amazon. In addition, they will continue measurement of fire extent from satellites and comparing the satellite retrievals to ground based observations.

LBA-ECO contacts on this project:
     Daniel Nepstad, Woods Hole Research Center , Email: [email protected]
     Carlos Klink, University of Brasilia, Email: [email protected]
     Foster Brown, Woods Hole Research Center , Email: [email protected]

4. Studying nutrients and their affects on secondary forest recovery

Secondary forests may be an important sink for carbon. But, do nutrients limit the rate of secondary forest recovery? Experience with agriculture and silviculture in the Amazon region suggests that soil nutrients are extremely limited in the highly weathered soils of the region. Researchers from Woods Hole Research Center and the Museo Paraense Emilio Goeldi (MPEG) have been fertilizing second growth forests to learn how severely nutrients can limit recovery.

They are also measuring the re-growth of secondary forests using Landsat and IKONOS satellite imagery to analyze patterns of succession and ultimately to measure secondary re-growth across the Amazon region.

LBA-ECO contacts on this project:
     Eric Davidson, Woods Hole Research Center, Email: [email protected]
     Ima Vieira, MPEG, Email: [email protected]

For reporters interested in attending the conference, it will take place at the Centro de Convenções Studio 5, Distrito Industrial - Manaus, Avenida Rodrigo Otávio, 3555, Brazil. The press room is # 7.

Journalists should register for the conference on line at:

On the registration form, any media attending should indicate they are journalists and no fees will be charged. Registration is needed for a badge and comprehensive material.

For more information and images:

This article comes from Science Blog. Copyright © 2004

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