Drought impacts on the Amazon forest: the remote sensing perspective
Drought varies spatially and temporally throughout the Amazon basin, challenging efforts to assess ecological impacts via field measurements alone. Remote sensing offers a range of regional insights into drought-mediated changes in cloud cover and rainfall, canopy physiology, and fire. Here, we summarize remote sensing studies of Amazônia which indicate that: fires and burn scars are more common during drought years; hydrological function including floodplain area is significantly affected by drought; and land use affects the sensitivity of the forest to dry conditions and increases fire susceptibility during drought. We highlight two controversial areas of research centering on canopy physiological responses to drought and changes in subcanopy fires during drought. By comparing findings from field and satellite studies, we contend that current remote sensing observations and techniques cannot resolve these controversies using current satellite observations. We conclude that studies integrating multiple lines of evidence from physiological, disturbance-fire, and hydrological remote sensing, as well as field measurements, are critically needed to narrow our uncertainty of basin-level responses to drought and climate change.