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Keywords:

  • Amazonian ecosystems;
  • biomass;
  • carbon cycling;
  • carbon dioxide;
  • climate;
  • dynamic vegetation model;
  • glacial–interglacial;
  • last glacial maximum;
  • rainforest

Abstract

The nature of Amazonian ecosystem responses to the large-scale environmental changes characterizing glacial–interglacial cycles is poorly understood. We investigated this issue with a series of transient, continuous 21 000-year simulations using a dynamic process-based ecosystem model. Our results indicate that the Amazon Basin has been dominated by evergreen rain forests since the last glacial maximum (LGM), demonstrating the resilience of this ecosystem to glacial–interglacial environmental change. We find that biome shifts in ecotonal areas since the LGM were driven predominantly by climate change, while coincident, increased ecosystem carbon storage throughout the Amazon Basin was driven largely by CO2. Our findings imply that recent observed biomass increases in contemporary rain forest plots might be part of a long-term trend driven by the anthropogenic rise in CO2 over recent centuries.