Trees that initially appear to survive fires, such as those caused by El Niño, are in fact dying two to three years later, increasing carbon emissions and causing further loss of Amazonian vegetation. Dr Barlow of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences found that many of the large, thicker-barked trees that survive up to two years following ground fires had died after three years, dramatically reducing the amount of carbon stored in living trees.
"Three years after the fires, the amount of viable tree-life is less than half of that found in unburned areas of forest," said Dr Barlow. "These wildfires make substantial contributions to atmospheric carbon dioxide, a fact that will take on further significance as El Niño events threaten to become increasingly frequent and severe," he continued. The research is published in the January issue of Ecology Letters.