Energy & Environment

New study warns half of Amazon rainforest could turn into savanna

Amazon rainforest Brazil

More than half of the Amazon rainforest could turn into a savanna in the next few decades, warns a study published Monday in scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

The study found that over three-quarters of the Amazon rainforest, which spreads across eight countries in northern South America, has lost resilience since the early 2000s.

“Deforestation and climate change, via increasing dry-season length and drought frequency, may already have pushed the Amazon close to a critical threshold of rainforest dieback,” the study found.

The loss of resilience has been exacerbated in areas of the rainforest that experience less rainfall and are located nearer to human settlements.

Researchers involved in the study said that, if the current trajectory of the rainforest continues, the Amazon could reach a “tipping point” where it experiences irreversible dieback.

“Many researchers have theorised that a tipping point could be reached, but our study provides vital empirical evidence that we are approaching that threshold,” said research contributor Niklas Boers of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Boers, who is a professor at the Technical University of Munich, added that “Deforestation and climate change are likely to be the main drivers of this decline.”

The Amazon’s loss of resilience is “risking dieback with profound implications for biodiversity, carbon storage and climate change at a global scale,” the study wrote.

“Although finding such a striking loss of resilience is depressing … the fact that this is an early warning gives us a chance to do something about it before it’s too late,” lead study author Chris Boulton, of the University of Exeter, told The Hill.

“This gives new compelling evidence to support efforts to reverse deforestation and degradation of the Amazon to give it back some resilience against ongoing climate change,” said study contributor Timothy Lenton, director of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, of the research.

Tags Amazon rainforest Ecological resilience
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