New Faculty Member Publishes in Nature


Jennifer Balch

Jennifer K. Balch, who will join the faculty in Penn State’s Department of Geography in August 2012 as an assistant professor and EESI associate, co-authored a recent publication in Nature, entitled "The Amazon basin in transition." Jennifer ( is currently a postdoctoral associate at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis(NCEAS). Her research looks at the patterns and processes that underlie fire disturbance and ecosystem recovery, particularly in tropical forests.

The recent Nature article reveals that human activity has begun to alter the regional water and energy cycles of the Amazon basin. The danger is that the Amazon may be shifting from a carbon sink to a carbon source. A strong sign of a new disturbance regime is the high number of recent large-scale wildfires, which are a byproduct of intentional fires in Brazil’s ‘arc of deforestation.’ In addition, it shows that ongoing interactions of deforestation, fire, and climate change have the potential to alter carbon storage, rainfall patterns and river discharge on an even larger basinwide scale. These wildfires are extremely frequent, occurring every few years, compared with every couple centuries in the past. To view the UCSB-NCEAS press-release go to: