Successful climate research in the Amazon region is continued and expanded with ATTO+

The next funding phase of the ATTO project will answer new pressing questions in climate research in the Amazon

August 20, 2021

Joint press release of the MPI for Biogeochemistry and the MPI for Chemistry

Within the framework of the German-Brazilian joint project ATTO (Amazon Tall Tower Observatory) with its research station in the Brazilian rainforest, scientists for several years have gained valuable data and insights for climate and environmental research. For German partners, the Max Planck Society will continue to ensure the operation of the station and the research. In addition, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will fund the project for another three years with around 5 million euros through ATTO+. This will allow answering new pressing questions by expanding the measurements that have been successfully established to date.

With the help of the 325-meter-high tower at ATTO, exchange processes between the rainforest and the atmosphere can be studied

The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory is a large-scale joint German-Brazilian project that has been funded by both countries since 2010. The research station in the Amazon rainforest is a unique scientific platform for long-term research into the changing role of the Amazon forests in the Earth system. More than 200 scientists from all over the world are now conducting research to understand how intact Amazon forests affect regional and global climate, greenhouse gas balance and air quality, and how these will change as a result of global change. In Germany, the Max Planck Institutes for Biogeochemistry and Chemistry as well as the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are involved in the new research phase ATTO+.

With the help of the research station, scientists study the complex interactions between the world's largest tropical forest and the atmosphere. Since the start of continuous data collection in 2011, ATTO fills a gap in global observation networks with long-term climatic, biogeochemical, and atmospheric measurements. Targeted studies of specific processes complement the long-term measurements and seek to explain underlying causes of year-to-year variations in forest-atmosphere exchanges of energy, water and greenhouse gases.

A major advantage of ATTO is that it brings multiple disciplines together in the same place. Some scientists study how environment and biology control the exchange of energy, water, particles, and gases with the atmosphere. Others study how atmospheric motions and chemical determine the fates of forest emissions. Bringing these perspectives together allows improved understanding of feedbacks and improve the accuracy of predictions of how climatic and ecological processes respond to the changing Earth system. ATTO+ thus makes an important contribution to the scientific basis of climate policy decisions, also in Germany.
The Max Planck Society is continuing its funding of the project over the coming years. In addition, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding a further research phase with ATTO+ as part of the "Research for Sustainability" (FONA) strategy with around 5 million euros. This will allow the research to be deepened and to be linked with other research projects in the Amazon for optimal use of the collected data. This funding is a great success for the participating scientists in Germany.

Scientists check a measuring device installed on one of the tower's lower platforms.

"We are extremely pleased about the trust placed in us by the Max Planck Society and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research," says Prof. Susan Trumbore, scientific coordinator of ATTO in Germany and director at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena. "Research projects like ATTO, that use long-term measurements to understand how climate interacts with the rainforest, only develop their full potential after many years. With ATTO+, we also have opportunity to show how biodiversity, climate, and atmospheric chemistry all interact and change together. We are grateful to our funders for the time and financial resources to continue research at this valuable and unique platform."

New research funded by ATTO+ allows project members to answer new pressing scientific questions. For example, ongoing observations at ATTO indicate strong connections between drought, leaf phenology and the overall carbon balance of the forest. Additional instrumentation and remote sensing financed through ATTO+ will provide new data to explain the causes of observed year-to-year variations in forest carbon balance. Measurements at ATTO also show that numerous volatile compounds contribute to chemical reactions in the atmosphere. New research will investigate the ecological origin of these compounds and their influence on aerosol formation and thus on the formation of clouds and precipitation. And there will also be a focus on how smoke from deforestation fires in the Amazon, whose number and severity is increasing due to droughts, affects cloud formation. Both can have a lasting impact on the continent's hydrological cycle. Other new research relates wind damage to trees with turbulence regimes above the forest and links wind disturbance to biodiversity patterns and long-term carbon storage.

Another fundamental aspect of ATTO research is the question of the stability and future of this unique ecosystem, which faces climate change and increasing deforestation. "ATTO gives us a unique opportunity to study processes in and over a nearly pristine rainforest, where we find conditions close to those before the Industrial Revolution," explains Dr. Christopher Pöhlker, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz. "And we can observe in real time how external conditions change and how the forest reacts to these changes."

The publicly available data and results of the ATTO research will be made available not only to the scientific community, but also to the interested public. A photo exhibition, educational materials for schools, and new collaborative projects with communities near the research station will complement existing online formats and social media coverage of the project.

Background of the project

The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory is located about 150 km northeast of Manus in the Uatumã Sustainable Development Reserve. The research station consists of three measurement towers, several experimental plots and laboratory containers. At 325 m, the largest of these tower is the highest research tower in South America, allowing unprecedented observations of near-surface atmospheric motions and integrating the greenhouse gas balance of the intact forests upwind.

The ATTO+ research phase is coordinated in Germany by the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena. Other core partners are the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). On the Brazilian side, coordination is carried out by the Institute for Amazon Research (INPA) in Manaus, with the University of the State of Amazonas (UEA) as another core partner. In addition, about two dozen other research institutions are significantly involved in ATTO, including the University of Sao Paulo and the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil (INPE).

Construction of the research station was supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTIC) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), with additional investment from the Max Planck Society. Continued operation is supported by the Max Planck Society and the MCTIC. The ATTO+ research phase is funded by the BMBF as part of the "Research for Sustainability" (FONA) strategy. In Brazil, scientists contribute additional funds to support research and student education, primarily through their own research grants.

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