The World Daily
Amazon study reveals the rainforest may die sooner than predicted

Recent wildfires in the Amazon rainforest are pushing the forest toward a tipping point where it may no longer be able to sustain itself. Photo:Getty


Amazon study reveals the rainforest may die sooner than predicted


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | OCTOBER 5th 2020


In light of the changing climate, and the still warming globe, researchers have made the distressing discovery that the Amazon rainforest may end up becoming a Savannah if it loses too many of its trees and continues to dry at its current rate.

Rainforests are known to be particularly susceptible to changing climates, as everything withing them can be affected, from moisture to temperature. Many niche forms of life within rainforests such as the Amazon tend to depend on their environments either staying the same, or going through very particular changes. Thus, the onslaught of deforestation, as well as the threat of global warming were put under study by researchers, to see how they would ultimately affect the Amazon – nicknamed ‘the lungs of the world.’

According to the study, recently published in the journal ‘Nature Communications,’ and led by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, about 40% of the Amazon rainforest’s massive territory could presently coexist both as a rainforest, and a Savannah – the result of draught, as well as losing both trees and moisture. This is primarily perpetuated by human-wrought aspects.

The lead author of the study, Arie Staal, stated that due to how a rainforest functions, under the right conditions, it could always produce rainfall. All it would need is the correct sort of climate, the type that it’s accustomed to. However, under the wrong climate, incorrect conditions, the rainforests could also be made to submit to droughts.

“As forests grow and spread across a region, this affects rainfall,” Staal said. “Forests create their own rain because leaves give off water vapour and this falls as rain further downwind. Rainfall means fewer fires leading to even more forests.”

The study was made using computer models, as well as present data based off the changes seen to the Amazon rainforest, both from what was available on record, as well as from studies observing the impacts of logging and the recent bout of severe fires that’d swept the rainforest over the summer.

The fires observed in the Amazon over the course of this year are said to be the worst of the entire decade, implying an incline in the negative and obvious effects of global warming, as similarly destructive fires were witnessed all over the world in 2020. Such as the bushfire in Australia, in which 3 billion animal lives were lost, and the still ongoing fires in the United States, California. The spread of fires in the Amazon, however, may be signs of something far more concerning.

“Drier conditions make it harder for the forest to recover and increase the flammability of the ecosystem,” Staal added. “It is harder to return from the ‘trap’ caused by the feedback mechanism in which the open, grassy ecosystem is more flammable, and the fires, in turn, keep the ecosystem open.”

The research had also worked by running simulations of the Amazon and how its forests may spread across surrounding tropical regions. From there, they looked at both the most, and least possible forest cover that they could have in these areas going forward. This was all done whilst further simulating “atmospheric moisture recycling” and its reduction over time.

The more trees the Amazon loses, the harder it is for it to maintain the appropriate conditions, as the amount of rainfall also drops drastically. All of this research points to the Amazon eventually going through a natural shift from closed cover rainforest, to an open Savannah with dry conditions that would struggle to support the forest’s present life.

“We understand now that rainforests on all continents are very sensitive to global change and can rapidly lose their ability to adapt,” said the paper’s co-author, Ingo Fetzer. “Once gone, their recovery will take many decades to return to their original state. And given that rainforests host the majority of all global species, all this will be forever lost.”

Fires, such as the severe ones suffered by the forest this year, may grow in number and severity if the shifts in climate continue as they are, which in turn would only worsen the situation and bring about the rainforest’s changes even sooner still. The effects from this year’s fires have yet to be fully studied, but it’s already presumed that several animals and fauna may have been pushed to the brink of endangerment.

Over time, multiple smaller, though generally controlled fires continue to hamper the Amazon’s biodiversity. Being a rainforest, used to a particular level of rain and moisture, the Amazon isn’t as adapted to the scorching of flames as the Australian bush.

“The risk that our generation will preside over the irreversible collapse of Amazonian and Andean biodiversity is huge, literally existential,” said Mark Bush of the Florida Institute of Technology. The tipping point is coming sooner than expected, but when the change occurs is yet to be known. When it does, however, humanity will face the repercussions. That is, unless a change is yet made, and the fires in the coming years are put under better control.


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2020