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  1. Abstract Tropical forest fragmentation from agricultural expansion alters the microclimatic conditions of the remaining forests, with effects on vegetation structure and function. However, little is known about how the functional trait variability within and among tree species in fragmented landscapes influence and facilitate species’ persistence in these new environmental conditions. Here, we assessed potential changes in tree species’ functional traits in riparian forests within six riparian forests in cropland catchments (Cropland) and four riparian forests in forested catchments (Forest) in southern Amazonia. We sampled 12 common functional traits of 123 species across all sites: 64 common to both croplands and forests, 33 restricted to croplands, and 26 restricted to forests. We found that forest-restricted species had leaves that were thinner, larger, and with higher phosphorus (P) content, compared to cropland-restricted ones. Tree species common to both environments showed higher intraspecific variability in functional traits, with leaf thickness and leaf P concentration varying the most. Species turnover contributed more to differences between forest and cropland environments only for the stem-specific density trait. We conclude that the intraspecific variability of functional traits (leaf thickness, leaf P, and specific leaf area) facilitates species persistence in riparian forests occurring within catchments cleared for agricultural expansion in Amazonia. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 16, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Deep tropical soils with net anion exchange capacity can adsorb nitrate and might delay the eutrophication of surface waters that is often associated with many temperate croplands. We investigated anion exchange capacity and soil nitrate pools in deep soils in the Southern Brazilian Amazon, where conversion of tropical forest and Cerrado to intensive fertilized soybean and soybean-maize cropping expanded rapidly in the 2000s. We found that mean soil nitrate pools in the top 8 m increased from 143 kg N ha−1in forest to 1,052 in soybean and 1,161 kg N ha−1in soybean-maize croplands. This nitrate accumulation in croplands aligned with the estimated N surpluses in the croplands. Soil anion exchange capacity explained the magnitude of nitrate accumulation. High nitrate retention in soils was consistent with current low levels of streamwater nitrate exported from croplands. Soil exchange sites were far from saturation, which suggests that nitrate accumulation can continue for longer under current cropping practices, although mechanisms such as competition with other anions and preferential water flowpaths that bypass exchange sites could reduce the time to saturation.

     
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  4. Abstract The Amazon biome is being pushed by unsustainable economic drivers towards an ecological tipping point where restoration to its previous state may no longer be possible. This degradation is the result of self-reinforcing interactions between deforestation, climate change and fire. We assess the economic, natural capital and ecosystem services impacts and trade-offs of scenarios representing movement towards an Amazon tipping point and strategies to avert one using the Integrated Economic-Environmental Modeling (IEEM) Platform linked with spatial land use-land cover change and ecosystem services modeling (IEEM + ESM). Our approach provides the first approximation of the economic, natural capital and ecosystem services impacts of a tipping point, and evidence to build the economic case for strategies to avert it. For the five Amazon focal countries, namely, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador, we find that a tipping point would create economic losses of US$256.6 billion in cumulative gross domestic product by 2050. Policies that would contribute to averting a tipping point, including strongly reducing deforestation, investing in intensifying agriculture in cleared lands, climate-adapted agriculture and improving fire management, would generate approximately US$339.3 billion in additional wealth and a return on investment of US$29.5 billion. Quantifying the costs, benefits and trade-offs of policies to avert a tipping point in a transparent and replicable manner can support the design of regional development strategies for the Amazon biome, build the business case for action and catalyze global cooperation and financing to enable policy implementation. 
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  5. Nitrogen (N) fertilizer use is rapidly intensifying on tropical croplands and has the potential to increase emissions of the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide (N2O). Since about 2005 Mato Grosso (MT), Brazil has shifted from single-cropped soybeans to double-cropping soybeans with maize, and now produces 1.5% of the world's maize. This production shift required an increase in N fertilization, but the effects on N2O emissions are poorly known. We calibrated the process-oriented biogeochemical DeNitrification-DeComposition (DNDC) model to simulate N2O emissions and crop production from soybean and soybean-maize cropping systems in MT. After model validation with field measurements and adjustments for hydrological properties of tropical soils, regional simulations suggested N2O emissions from soybean-maize cropland increased almost fourfold during 2001–2010, from 1.1 ± 1.1 to 4.1 ± 3.2 Gg 1014 N-N2O. Model sensitivity tests showed that emissions were spatially and seasonably variable and especially sensitive to soil bulk density and carbon content. Meeting future demand for maize using current soybean area in MT might require either (a) intensifying 3.0 million ha of existing single soybean to soybean-maize or (b) increasing N fertilization to ~180 kg N ha−1on existing 2.3 million ha of soybean-maize area. The latter strategy would release ~35% more N2O than the first. Our modifications of the DNDC model will improve estimates of N2O emissions from agricultural production in MT and other tropical areas, but narrowing model uncertainty will depend on more detailed field measurements and spatial data on soil and cropping management.

     
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    Intensive agriculture alters headwater streams, but our understanding of its effects is limited in tropical regions where rates of agricultural expansion and intensification are currently greatest. Riparian forest protections are an important conservation tool, but whether they provide adequate protection of stream function in these areas of rapid tropical agricultural development has not been well studied. To address these gaps, we conducted a study in the lowland Brazilian Amazon, an area undergoing rapid cropland expansion, to assess the effects of land use change on organic matter dynamics (OM), ecosystem metabolism, and nutrient concentrations and uptake (nitrate and phosphate) in 11 first order streams draining forested (n = 4) or cropland (n = 7) watersheds with intact riparian forests. We found that streams had similar terrestrial litter inputs, but OM biomass was lower in cropland streams. Gross primary productivity was low and not different between land uses, but ecosystem respiration and net ecosystem production showed greater seasonality in cropland streams. Although we found no difference in stream concentrations of dissolved nutrients, phosphate uptake exceeded nitrate uptake in all streams and was higher in cropland than forested streams. This indicates that streams will be more retentive of phosphorus than nitrogen and that if fertilizer nitrogen reaches streams, it will be exported in stream networks. Overall, we found relatively subtle differences in stream function, indicating that riparian buffers have thus far provided protection against major functional shifts seen in other systems. However, the changes we did observe were linked to watershed scale shifts in hydrology, water temperature, and light availability resulting from watershed deforestation. This has implications for the conservation of tens of thousands of stream kilometers across the expanding Amazon cropland region. 
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