EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Hysteresis of tropical forests in the 21st century

Arie Staal1, Ingo Fetzer1, Lan Wang-Erlandsson1, Joyce Bosmans2, Stefan Dekker3, Egbert van Nes4, Johan Rockström5, and Obbe Tuinenburg3
Arie Staal et al.
  • 1Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
  • 2Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands
  • 3Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 4Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 5Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany

Tropical forests modify the conditions they depend on through feedbacks on different spatial scales. These feedbacks shape the hysteresis (history-dependence) of tropical forests, thus controlling their resilience to deforestation and response to climate change. Here we present the emergent hysteresis from local-scale tipping points and regional-scale forest-rainfall feedbacks across the tropics under the recent climate and a severe climate-change scenario. By integrating remote sensing, a global hydrological model, and detailed atmospheric moisture tracking simulations, we find that forest-rainfall feedback expands the range of possible forest distributions especially in the Amazon. The Amazon forest could partially recover from complete deforestation, but may lose that resilience later this century. The Congo forest lacks resilience, but gains it under climate change, whereas forests in Australasia are resilient under both current and future climates. Our results show how tropical forests shape their own distributions and create the climatic conditions that enable them.

How to cite: Staal, A., Fetzer, I., Wang-Erlandsson, L., Bosmans, J., Dekker, S., van Nes, E., Rockström, J., and Tuinenburg, O.: Hysteresis of tropical forests in the 21st century, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7217,, 2020


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