Climate change: More than a quarter of the Amazon basin releases more carbon than it absorbs | Climate news
According to a comprehensive study, more than a quarter of the Amazon basin releases more carbon than it absorbs.
Brazilian researchers flew an airplane over the rainforest every two weeks for nine years, taking air samples from just above the canopy to a height of 4.5 km.
They found that the eastern side of the Amazon, which makes up around 28% of the total area, loses more carbon from deforestation than is removed from the atmosphere by growing trees.
Some of the carbon is lost in fires that were deliberately started to clear the forest for agriculture.
But the knock-on effect of the lack of trees is local Climate change, with rising temperatures and lower rainfall, which accelerate the decline in the surrounding forest areas. Parts of the Amazon have gone from being a carbon sink to being a source of carbon.
Mark Wright, science director for the conservation organization WWF, told Sky News that research has shown the Amazon is at a tipping point where large areas of forest could be destroyed by self-perpetuating death.
“We’re not talking about a dystopian future anymore, this is stuff we can see on the ground, these changes are happening here and now,” he said.
“It’s a warning of what’s to come.
“We know we are approaching this inextricable situation in which the forest is slowly turning into a more grass-like savannah ecosystem and thus more carbon is pouring into the atmosphere.”
The world’s facilities have absorbed 25% of fossil fuel emissions since 1960, helping to reduce global warming.
The Amazon rainforest has made up a significant portion, storing an estimated 123 billion tons in trees and other vegetation.
But the new research suggests that in the future one cannot rely on removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere because human activities disrupt the fragile ecosystem.
The researchers, led by the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil, found that on the lush western side of the Amazon basin, slightly more carbon is absorbed by photosynthesis than is released by dead trees and human impact on the forest.
On the east side, however, it was a distinctly different story, where 27% of the forest has been lost, more than twice as much as in the west.
The results, published in the journal Nature, show that during the nine-year study, the area went from a carbon sink to a net source, with local climate change destabilizing the fragile ecosystem.
The researchers say that in the drier months of August through October, temperatures in the eastern Amazon rose 1.9 ° C to 2.5 ° C in 40 years. The amount of precipitation has decreased by 24% to 34%.
The researchers say there is a direct link between climate change and tree loss.
The Amazon receives an average of more than two feet of rain per year, with between a quarter and a third of that being due to moisture given off by trees.
With a shrinking forest to the east, the atmosphere is drier, stunting the growth of the remaining trees and reducing the amount of carbon they absorb.
Some scientists have predicted that when the Amazon reaches a tipping point, it will retreat to cover only a relatively small area in the west, with devastating effects on biodiversity and atmospheric carbon.
But Mark Wright said, “The future may be very, very bleak, but it’s not too late.
“If we follow the science, we can clearly see that there is scope in Brazil for really good agricultural development that will boost its economy and not require further deterioration.
“If we can focus on restoring this land, there is still hope to prevent this type of runaway.
“But we have to act now, we can’t put it off any longer.”
Sky News has launched the first prime-time daily news program devoted to climate change.
The Daily Climate Show will air Monday through Friday at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.
It is hosted by Anna Jones and follows Sky News correspondents as they study how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.
The show also shows solutions to the crisis and how small changes can make a big difference.
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