As more trees die in the Amazon Basin, the forest’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide weakens. However, the main drivers of tree death across the region have been largely unknown, until now. A newly published study in the journal Nature Communications provides insight into why trees die in the Amazon, and why the rate of tree death may be increasing. According to the study, the main risk factor explaining tree death is the mean growth rate of species. Faster-growing tree species tend to have shorter life spans, and thus record more deaths over a given period. As climate change progresses, these fast-growing species are faring better. But because they die sooner, they absorb less carbon than a slow-growing, long-lived species. This could spell trouble for the climate, as the Amazon accounts for 12% of the world’s land-based carbon sink. “The capacity of Amazon to absorb carbon is declining over time. And the main reason is because [tree] mortality is increasing. So, we need to understand mortality. And then that becomes the very pressing question,” Adriane Esquivel-Muelbert, the lead author of the study from the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, U.K., told Mongabay. The Amazon grape tree (Pourouma cecropiifoliais) is one of many fast-growing pioneer species. Image courtesy of RAINFOR. Because most trees live comparatively longer than other living things in the forest, understanding why, how, and where trees die requires a lot of data collected over a long time. For this massive analysis on tree death, more than 124,500 trees…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer