According to studies, the Amazon rainforest is approaching a “tipping point” where trees will begin to die in large numbers.
According to a new study, the world’s largest rainforest is losing its ability to recover from droughts, fires, and deforestation.
Large swaths of land might become sparsely wooded savannah, which is significantly less effective at taking carbon dioxide from the air than tropical forest.
The massive forest sequesters carbon, which would otherwise contribute to global warming.
However, earlier research has found that sections of the Amazon are currently producing more CO2 than can be absorbed.
“The trees are losing health and may be approaching a tipping point – basically, a mass loss of trees,” University of Exeter’s Dr Chris Boulton stated.
The findings, which are based on three decades of satellite data, reveal troubling patterns in the Amazon rainforest’s “health.”
More than 75 percent of the forest has lost its resilience, with trees taking longer to recover from droughts caused mostly by climate change, as well as human influences such as deforestation and fires.
According to the researchers, “dieback” could be caused by a vicious cycle of destruction.
While it’s unclear when that tipping point will occur, the consequences for climate change, biodiversity, and the local community will be “devastating.”
They estimate that once the process starts, a “major portion” of the Amazon will be turned into savannah, a completely different ecosystem made up of a mixture of grassland and trees, in a couple of decades.
“The Amazon stores a lot of carbon, and all of that would be released into the atmosphere, contributing to rising temperatures and having future consequences on global mean temperatures,” Dr. Boulton said, adding that halting deforestation would help address the issue.
They estimate that a fifth of the rainforest has already been gone since pre-industrial times.
The University of Exeter, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and the Technical University of Munich collaborated on the study.
“The primary drivers of this loss are expected to be deforestation and climate change,” said Prof Niklas Boers of PIK and the Technical University of Munich.
“These latest findings are consistent with the accumulating evidence that the twin pressures of climate change and human exploitation of tropical forests are endangering the world’s largest rainforest, which is home to one out of every ten species known to science,” said Dr Bonnie Waring of Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute – Climate Change and Environment.