Pantropical dynamics of ‘intact’ rain forest canopy texture


*Corresponding author.


Aside from deforestation and selective logging, mature tropical rain forests appear to be in a state of near-term flux. At plot scales over a 20-year period, forest inventory data (representing areas < 750 ha) have shown stands to be accumulating above-ground biomass pantropically while displaying signs of increasing turnover. To assess whether or not such disequilibrium is manifest at broader spatial scales (i.e. coarser grain sizes and larger extents), we performed a change detection analysis of landscape texture (i.e. the organization of reflective properties), in satellite images of closed-canopy tropical rain forests considered to be anthropically undisturbed. Here we show that fractal properties of pixel spectral values depicting low and high levels of photosynthetic activity underwent significant shifts from the 1970s to the 1980s. Following expectations for aggrading forests, canopy texture became more random throughout the tropics. Although subject to periodic disturbance events such as natural exogenic perturbations and/or synchronous die-off, which should produce no consistent trend, these forested landscapes across the globe exhibited similar dynamics at fine temporal (decadal) intervals. Such biophysical changes (representing areas > 1000 000 ha) directly affect atmospheric boundary layer conditions and could have implications with respect to biodiversity and carbon cycling in these systems.