A new study has found parts of the Amazon rainforest are now emitting a greater amount of carbon dioxide than it is able to absorb, as a result of large-scale deforestation and climate change.
What is Happening?
- Known as Earth’s largest rainforest, the Amazon supports one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet and plays an important role as a carbon sink to help absorb and store CO2 as the world’s carbon emissions exponentially increase over the last few decades.
- However, in a new study published in Nature, scientists have found that the Amazonia carbon sink is currently in decline and recorded to be releasing higher carbon emissions as a result of deforestation and climate change.
- Researchers led by scientists from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research performed 590 airplane flyovers up to 4,500m above the Amazon to measure concentrations of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide between 2010 and 2018. During the eight-year period, they found the total carbon emission to be greater in the eastern parts of the Amazon than it is in the western regions.
- Eastern Amazonia has been hit hard by deforestation, particularly in the southeastern parts due to its proximity to population centres and demands for logging and cattle ranching, leading to greater warming and moisture stress especially during the dry seasons. The combination of the intensification of dry seasons with greater rates of deforestation and wildfires, have heavily affected the rainforests’ ability to store and absorb carbon dioxide.
- The Amazon is currently in a negative loop that makes the forest more susceptible to uncontrolled fires, which in turns produces three times more CO2 than the forests can absorb.
- The study also recorded Amazonian emissions amount to a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, equivalent to the annual emissions released in Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest polluter.
This is the latest sign that current efforts to combat climate change have barely made any impact and the rate of human activity still outpaces conservation efforts. Luciana Gatti from the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil and lead author of the research has expressed the rate of decline in the Amazon to be incredibly worrying. “This is unbelievable in a tropical latitude to have this kind of change in temperature. Is this a rainforest?” says Gatti. “We’re scared that what’s happening in this region will be the future of the other regions.”
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