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Why This Matters: Due to human impacts, in about 40% of the Amazon the rainfall is now at a level where the forest could exist in either state—rainforest or savannah. As swaths of the rainforest begin to wither, lose moisture, and become savannah, crucial water resources will be removed from the region permanently, further contributing to drought.
A Rapid Reckoning: Researchers say that once the conversion process from rainforest to savannah begins, it is very hard to reverse; now, experts fear that we don’t have time to reverse this process despite our best efforts.
Further studies have explained this rapid acceleration, finding that larger, more complex biomes fall faster than smaller ones.Researchers estimate that once the tipping point is reached, it could take less than 50 years for a biome the size of the Amazon to collapse completely. John Dearing, a professor in physical geography at the University of Southampton urges people not to be “taken in by the longevity of these systems just because they may have been around for thousands, if not millions, of years.” He said, “they will collapse much more rapidly than we think.”
Political Motivations: President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has promised to continue the development of the Amazon rainforest, ignoring critics and environmentalists who want to see the forest preserved. One critic, presidential candidate Joe Biden, recently threatened Brazil with “economic consequences” if it did not stop damaging the rainforest. Bolsonaro disregarded the statement as cowardly.
In the first 9 months of 2020, Amazon forest fires increased by 13% compared to last year. According to fire monitoring tools at NASA, the Amazon currently has 28,892 active fires spanning 9 different countries. Due to this damage, about 20% of the Amazon has become a net positive source of carbon, with healthy forest unable to absorb the carbon flowing freely into the atmosphere. Environmentalists emphasize that the forest is paying the price of climate change, Ane Alencar, science director for Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research said of the current drought, “we are at the mercy of the rain.”
Humans need forests for our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. These ecosystems also provide livelihoods for people, offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion, and mitigate climate change. Unfortunately, a new report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) titled “Deforestation Fronts: Drivers and Responses in a Changing World” reveals that more […]
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s most recent effort to reduce the destruction of the Amazon rainforest has failed, The Washington Post reports. Bolsonaro’s plan to deploy military troops and take illegal mining operations by surprise ultimately failed when miners got wind of it.
Why This Matters: The health of the Amazon rainforest is crucial in the fight against climate change.
This year will be remembered for literally turning the sky red — wildfires in California were so severe that they cast a red pall across large areas of the state — and the photos were the most vivid sign yet that climate change is not some future apocalypse, but is already upon us.
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