Diverse anthropogenic disturbances shift Amazon forests along a structural spectrum

Marielle N. Smith, Scott C. Stark, Tyeen C. Taylor, Juliana Schietti, Danilo Roberti Alves de Almeida, Susan Aragón, Kelly Torralvo, Albertina P. Lima, Gabriel de Oliveira, Rafael Leandro de Assis, Veronika Leitold, Aline Pontes-Lopes, Ricardo Scoles, Luciana Cristina de Sousa Vieira, Angelica Faria Resende, Alysha I. Coppola, Diego Oliveira Brandão, João de Athaydes Silva Junior, Laura F. Lobato, Wagner FreitasDaniel Almeida, Mendell S. Souza, David M. Minor, Juan Camilo Villegas, Darin J. Law, Nathan Gonçalves, Daniel Gomes da Rocha, Marcelino Carneiro Guedes, Hélio Tonini, Kátia Emídio da Silva, Joost van Haren, Diogo Martins Rosa, Dalton Freitas do Valle, Carlos Leandro Cordeiro, Nicolas Zaslavsky de Lima, Gang Shao, Imma Oliveras Menor, Georgina Conti, Ana Paula Florentino, Lía Montti, Luiz E.O.C. Aragão, Sean M. McMahon, Geoffrey G. Parker, David D. Breshears, Antonio Carlos Lola Da Costa, William E. Magnusson, Rita Mesquita, José Luís C. Camargo, Raimundo C. de Oliveira, Plinio B. de Camargo, Scott R. Saleska, Bruce Walker Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Amazon forests are being degraded by myriad anthropogenic disturbances, altering ecosystem and climate function. We analyzed the effects of a range of land-use and climate-change disturbances on fine-scale canopy structure using a large database of profiling canopy lidar collected from disturbed and mature Amazon forest plots. At most of the disturbed sites, surveys were conducted 10–30 years after disturbance, with many exhibiting signs of recovery. Structural impacts differed in magnitude more than in character among disturbance types, producing a gradient of impacts. Structural changes were highly coordinated in a manner consistent across disturbance types, indicating commonalities in regeneration pathways. At the most severely affected site – burned igapó (seasonally flooded forest) – no signs of canopy regeneration were observed, indicating a sustained alteration of microclimates and consequently greater vulnerability to transitioning to a more open-canopy, savanna-like state. Notably, disturbances rarely shifted forests beyond the natural background of structural variation within mature plots, highlighting the similarities between anthropogenic and natural disturbance regimes, and indicating a degree of resilience among Amazon forests. Studying diverse disturbance types within an integrated analytical framework builds capacity to predict the risk of degradation-driven forest transitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-32
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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