The fate of the rainforest is critical to the health of the planet because it is home to a unique array of animal and plant life, stores an enormous amount of carbon and severely influences global weather patterns.
This decrease in resilience since the early 2000s, the authors said, is a warning sign of an irreversible decline. While it’s not possible to know exactly when the transition from rainforest to savannah could occur, once it becomes clear, it will be too late to stop.
“We lose about 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide mostly in trees but also in the soil (in the Amazon),” Linton said.
If the Amazon were no longer a rainforest, it wouldn’t store much carbon.
Once we reach the tipping point, the authors said, rainforests can disappear fairly quickly. “My gut, for what it’s worth, (it) It could happen within decades,” Linton said.
The study found that the loss of resilience was most severe in areas closest to human activity as well as those that received less rainfall. The study also indicated that a loss of resilience does not mean a loss of forest cover area – which means that rainforests can be close to a point of no return without clearly identifiable changes.
There has been a question mark over how the Amazon rainforest will meet the challenges of climate change, land use change and fires, said Shantel Burton, a senior climate scientist at the Met Office Hadley Center in the UK. This new study, she said, is “really important.”
“What this study does is provide some observational evidence of what is really happening to this important carbon stock, and it shows that human land use and changes in weather and climate patterns are already driving a significant change in the system,” Burton, who was not involved in the research, told Science Media Center in London.
“Bypassing a tipping point of this nature will make it difficult to achieve our goal of net zero emissions globally due to the loss of the ‘free service’ provided by Amazon’s Carbon Bank that currently eliminates some of our emissions.”
Richard Allan, professor of climate sciences at the University of Reading, said the study was “a comprehensive and rigorous assessment of the Amazon’s sustainability.”
“It comes to the puzzling conclusion that a large part of the Amazon is showing signs that it may be approaching a tipping point toward irreversible decline; but because multiple sensors from satellites are used to infer vegetation ‘fertility’, we need to make sure of this.” The data and the statement quoted Alan as saying that the records show accurate trends.”
“In any case, it is undeniable that human activities are waging a war of attrition from multiple sides against the natural world, although the solutions are known in this case: halting deforestation while rapidly and dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
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