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The Amazon is losing its ability to "rebound" from destruction

2022-03-31 02:23 PM

According to new science by Exeter University, the Potsdam Institute & Munich Technical University, the Amazon is losing its ability to "rebound" from its desctruction. Parts of it are already approaching a "Catastrophic tipping point".

The Amazon rainforest is teetering on the precipice of a dangerous tipping point, new research warns. It’s gradually losing its ability to bounce back after disturbances like droughts or other extreme weather events.

With enough time and forest losses, scientists say, large swaths of the Amazon could fall into an unstoppable spiral that would transform them from lush rainforest into grassy savanna.

The global implications would be profound. The loss of the rainforest would cause a large-scale drying across the region. The circulation of the atmosphere could change in response, altering weather patterns around the world. And the Amazon has the potential to pour some 90 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the forest dies off, the equivalent of several years of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s worth reminding ourselves that if it gets to that tipping point and we commit to losing the Amazon rainforest, then we get a significant feedback to global climate change,” said Timothy Lenton, a scientist at the University of Exeter and a co-author of the study, published yesterday in Nature Climate Change.

Scientists have warned of an Amazon tipping point for years. Computer models and simulations have frequently shown that with enough future warming, the rainforest could eventually enter an irreversible transition to a new kind of ecosystem.

Now, the new study adds extra urgency to the situation. It demonstrates, with real-life observations, that the Amazon is already losing its resilience. In fact, it has been for years. The research draws on three decades of satellite data, monitoring the way trees and other vegetation recover after damaging weather events, droughts or other disturbances. The findings are stark: The Amazon has been losing its resilience for at least 20 years. The majority of the areas observed recover more slowly today than they did a couple of decades ago.

Source: Scientific American