By 2050 we could lose almost half of the Amazon

The latest work in which the CSIC participates shows that half of the Amazon is heading towards total collapse.

Our planet is in check due to the possible loss of almost half of the Amazon. In a new study published in the journal Nature, scientists warn that the world's largest tropical forest is approaching a "tipping point" due to drought, deforestation and wildfires and could collapse by 2050.

The region known to function as the lungs of the Earth is approaching a critical tipping point that could cause a massive ecological collapse with far-reaching consequences for the global climate system.

In the coming decades, up to half of the Amazon could become grasslands or weakened ecosystems. This is a dangerous warning issued by an international research team, which includes experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

half of the Amazon

Inflection point

To reach these conclusions, the study authors analyzed the impacts of rising temperatures, severe droughts, deforestation and forest fires.

Climate change, deforestation and severe droughts like the one currently experienced in the region are devastating large areas of the Amazon, preventing its regeneration, according to a new study. According to scientists, such stress in the most sensitive areas of the tropical forest could lead to the collapse of entire forest ecosystems. This is terrible news.

The Amazon has more than 10% of the world's biodiversity and helps stabilize the global climate, saving carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to approximately two decades of global warming.

The news is that by 2050, between 10 and 47% of this rainforest (almost half of the Amazon) will be under pressure that could cause widespread changes in the ecosystem, possibly causing this key ecosystem to stop absorbing or even release the carbon stored inside, which will cause greater global pollution and intensify its effects.

"We are approaching a potential large-scale tipping point, and we may be closer (both locally and system-wide) than we previously thought.", Bernardo Flores, from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, in Florianópolis, Brazil and lead author of the study.

Climate consequences of the loss of half of the Amazon

If humidity continues to decline as much as it has, important forests could eventually convert to grasslands. The authors of the study explain that long-standing natural connections between environmental conditions and the Amazon rainforest ecosystem are being replaced by new connections, which is rapidly disturbing local wildlife and becoming more difficult for local people living in the Amazon River basin.

Borys Saksewski, co-author of the study, said: "The southeastern Amazon has already gone from a carbon sink to a source, meaning the current amount of human pressure is too high for the region to maintain its rainforest status in the long term."."But the problem doesn't end there. But the problem doesn't end there. Since tropical forests enrich the air with a large amount of moisture that forms the basis of precipitation in the west and south of the continent, the loss of forest in one place can lead to the loss of forest in another in a feedback loop. self-propelled or just a 'tilt"

In recent months, large areas of the Amazon have been hit by a severe drought that has dried up vital waterways, withered crops and sparked forest fires. The authors of the study note that water scarcity is a common cause of disturbances in the Amazon (which occur when there is not enough water to meet human or environmental needs) and global warming is exacerbating the effects of the scarcity of this water resource. .

half of the Amazon

The planet's lungs could disappear

The Amazon is the largest tropical forest in the world, covering 6,9 million square kilometers in 9 countries and representing approximately 40% of the South American continent. The forest that accounts for half of the planet's remaining tropical forests is also one of the most biodiverse ecosystems, home to some three million plant and animal species and 1,6 million indigenous people.

But that's not all: it is also an important regulator of climate cycles due to its cooling effect and contribution to the supply of rain and moisture to the region, and it is also one of the largest natural carbon sinks in the world, absorbing and storing the equivalent of 15 -20 years of global CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.

The researchers explained that: “We discovered, for example, that with an average annual rainfall of less than 1.000 mm per year, the Amazon rainforest cannot exist. However, below 1.800 mm per year, abrupt transitions from rainforest to savanna-like vegetation become possible. This can be caused by sequias individual or forest fires, which have become more frequent and more serious in recent years"

"With global change accelerating, there is an increasing likelihood that we will see positive feedback loops in which, rather than being able to repair itself, forest loss reinforces itself.".


Flores et al. Critical transitions in the Amazon forest system. Nature

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