A new study conducted with the help of a computer model has revealed that Amazon rainforests are capable of coping with droughts better than previously thought.
The degradation of the Amazon rainforests has been the topic of many discussions and studies. While a recent study revealed that the region may be dying faster that previously speculated, a new study found that the Amazonian rainforests are better at coping with dry weather and soil conditions than previously estimated by various climate models, according to a press release.
University of Exeter and Colorado State University researchers believe that these models have over predicted the water stress plants feel during droughts because they don't take into account the moisture that forests themselves can recycle during such dry seasons. Using a new computer model, researchers of this new study were able to remove all unrealistic water stress readings and found that the amount of moisture recycled by the forests was enough to reduce the intensity of dry conditions to some extent.
"This study suggests that forests are not only more able to withstand droughts than we had previously thought, but it is the response of the forest itself that can reduce the intensity or length of the drought," said Dr Anna Harper from Mathematics at the University of Exeter. "Moisture recycling works best in large areas of undisturbed forest so it is essential that measures to protect the Amazon rain forest are in place to ensure that that this natural process can be maintained in what may be a drier climate in the future."
Moisture recycling is an important source of rain for the Amazon rainforest. It includes the full cycle of rain, beginning from absorption of soil moisture to the evaporation of water vapor and finally transforming back to rain. This cycle largely depends on water that evaporates from the ground as well as that which moves through plants from the roots to their leaves.
According to statistics, more than one third of the rainfall Southern Amazon forests receive is from moisture recycling. This process of recycling largely depends on how much water plants can absorb from the soil. During droughts, after a certain period, plants reach a limit in their ability to use soil moisture. This leads to an excess amount of water stress that plants feel during the dry seasons. However, since moisture recycling increases during dry conditions, there's more moisture in the atmosphere, which reduces the water stress felt by forest trees.
Researchers also found that large areas of undisturbed forests are better at maintaining moisture recycling. This new discovery can help mitigate the consequences of the predicted problems that will result from the increased numbers of climate-change induced droughts.
Researchers also clarified that moisture recycling doesn't make forests immune to droughts. They just lessen the intensity of such dry seasons.