Amazonian forests face intensifying threats from climate change and human disturbance, and the prospect of near-future large-scale forest ‘dieback’, i.e. the rapid collapse in above-ground biomass and/or a loss in the capacity of forests to recover, as the Amazon forest approaches a climate tipping point. Such a dieback would limit the world’s ability to mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity and support sustainable development.

The objective of this presentation is to review the evidence for such a tipping point from an Earth System Modelling perspective. I will first give an overview of modelling methodologies, giving a historical perspective on advances in modelling capabilities and their projections for the Amazon forest from the original works from the turn of the century to the current state-of-the-art results as reported in the IPCC six assessment report.

Here I show how model capability has improved to include forest demography, plant hydraulics and mechanistic representations of fire disturbance, air pollution impacts, and consider land-use change. I will finish by highlighting remaining uncertainties and propose how these can be addressed with integrated and targeted data-model efforts.


tipping point, climate change, Earth System Models, Amazon dieback

Stephen Sitch, Peter Cox, Dominic Fawcett, Lucy Rowland, Thais Rosan, Chantelle Burton, Paul Ritchie, Alexander Cheesman, Lina Mercado, Cleiton Eller, Flossie Brown, Isobel Parry

Presentation within symposium:

S-14 Seeing Through the Smoke – fire as a catalyst of Amazonian tipping points

Amazon tipping points: an Earth System Modelling perspective