To understand the water, you must understand the carbon

Matteo Detto began his scientific career interested in the hydrological cycle. The more he learned about how water flowed through an ecosystem, however, the more he realized he needed to learn about how carbon flows as well. The reason is that carbon and water are inextricably linked.

The associate scientist at STRI points to photosynthesis − trees need water to assimilate atmospheric carbon. The CO2 released by soils is also influenced by how much moisture they contain.

"From a leaf’s perspective to an ecosystem’s perspective, carbon and water are strongly coupled," says Detto, while running experiments on Panama’s Barro Colorado Island. "I couldn’t understand the water cycle if I didn’t understand the carbon cycle. So I started studying more carbon−related questions. What better place is there to understand carbon than tropical forests?"

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Asner Wright Hall Muller Winter Potvin
Turner Detto Hubell Rubinoff Davies