Thresholds Database > Climate change with rooting depth, Amazon, South America

Certainty of shift: Proposed
Location: South America, Amazon basin
System Type: Social-Ecological
Regime Shift Category: 3a
Ecosystem Type
Spatial Scale
Type of Resource Use
Number of Possible Regimes
Ecosystem Service
Food and fibre
Time Scale of Change
Resource Users
Commercial logging companies? Subsistence farmers? 
Reversibility of Shift


This study links vegetation type, rooting depth and climate in the Amazon Basin.

Alternate Regimes

1. Forested areas with a consequent wetter, shorter, dry season

2. Deforested areas with a consequent warmer, longer, dry season

Fast or Dependent Variable(s)
Rainfall, temperature and humidity
Slow or Independent Variable(s)
Rooting depth
Disturbance or Threshold Trigger(s)
Clearing of trees (deforestation)
External / Internal Trigger


During the dry season, water transpired by plants contributes substantially to atmospheric moisture, increasing relative humidity. Vegetation type determines rooting depth, which in turn partly determines the availability of soil moisture for evapotranspiration. The climate in the deforested landscape, where shallower rooted plants prevail, has more frequent long dry periods, which are warmer, drier and more intense than in forested areas.

Management Decisions in Each Regime

State 1: Most of the modelled climatic changes arising from large-scale deforestation can be attributed to the removal of deep roots. The longer, dryer periods could make it more difficult for deep-rooted evergreen forest to become re-establishment.

Jacqui Meyers


CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems,
PO Box 284,
Canberra ACT 2601

empirical, model, Ecosystem Management, Physical/Climate, deforestation


Kleidon, A., and M. Heimann. 1999. Deep-Rooted Vegetation, Amazonian Deforestation, and Climate: Results From a Modelling Study. Global Ecology and Biogeography 8, no. 5: 397-405. (E)

Kleidon, A., and M. Heimann. 2000. Assessing the Role of Deep Rooted Vegetation in the Climate System With Model Simulations: Mechanism, Comparison to Observations and Implications for Amazonian Deforestation. Climate Dynamics 16, no. 2-3: 183-99. (M)

Higgins, P. A. T., M. D. Mastrandrea, and S. H. Schneider. 2002. Dynamics of Climate and Ecosystem Coupling: Abrupt Changes and Multiple Equilibria. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences 357: 647-55. (D)