The Amazon basin is likely to be increasingly affected by environmental changes: higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, CO2 fertilization and habitat fragmentation. To examine the important ecological and biogeochemical consequences of these changes, we are developing an international network, RAINFOR, which aims to monitor forest biomass and dynamics across Amazonia in a co-ordinated fashion in order to understand their relationship to soil and climate. The network will focus on sample plots established by independent researchers, some providing data extending back several decades. We will also conduct rapid transect studies of poorly monitored regions. Field expeditions analysed local soil and plant properties in the first phase (2001–2002). Initial results suggest that the network has the potential to reveal much information on the continental-scale relations between forest and environment. The network will also serve as a forum for discussion between researchers, with the aim of standardising sampling techniques and methodologies that will enable Amazonian forests to be monitored in a coherent manner in the coming decades.
Abbreviation: PSP = Permanent sample plot.