Reconstruction of the Amazon Basin Effective Moisture Availability over the Past 14,000 Years

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Science  22 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5500, pp. 2285-2287
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5500.2285

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Quantifying the moisture history of the Amazon Basin is essential for understanding the cause of rain forest diversity and its potential as a methane source. We reconstructed the Amazon River outflow history for the past 14,000 years to provide a moisture budget for the river drainage basin. The oxygen isotopic composition of planktonic foraminifera recovered from a marine sediment core in a region of Amazon River discharge shows that the Amazon Basin was extremely dry during the Younger Dryas, with the discharge reduced by at least 40% as compared with that of today. After the Younger Dryas, a meltwater-driven discharge event was followed by a steady increase in the Amazon Basin effective moisture throughout the Holocene.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: mmaslin{at}

  • Present address: Department of Geosciences, Morrill Science Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.

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