Climate drivers of the Amazon forest greening
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Our limited understanding of the climate controls on tropical forest seasonality is one of the biggest sources of uncertainty in modeling climate change impacts on terrestrial ecosystems. Combining leaf production, litterfall and climate observations from satellite and ground data in the Amazon forest, we show that seasonal variation in leaf production is largely triggered by climate signals, specifically, insolation increase (70.4% of the total area) and precipitation increase (29.6%). Increase of insolation drives leaf growth in the absence of water limitation. For these non-water-limited forests, the simultaneous leaf flush occurs in a sufficient proportion of the trees to be observed from space. While tropical cycles are generally defined in terms of dry or wet season, we show that for a large part of Amazonia the increase in insolation triggers the visible progress of leaf growth, just like during spring in temperate forests. The dependence of leaf growth initiation on climate seasonality may result in a higher sensitivity of these ecosystems to changes in climate than previously thought.