Researchers warn that the Amazon rainforest could soon become a savanna-like ecosystem due to excessive logging and climate change. Up to 40% of the existing rainforest could be transformed into a savanna, according to a study in the journal. Communications from nature. Since rainforests need a certain amount of rainfall and humidity levels to thrive, prolonged droughts and severe wildfires can throw off balance. The new landscape would have far fewer trees, as well as forests and grasslands characteristic of savannas.
Scientists knew these changes would eventually occur, but they thought it would take at least a few decades to arrive. Of course, it will take a while for the complete change to occur. However, since the transformation is already underway, it is extremely difficult to reverse. Some scientists believe that in just 50 years, the forest of the Amazon could disappear completely. Since rainforests play a very important role in regulating the climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, the loss could prove catastrophic.
Why understanding how logging damages the Amazon is essential
Rainforests are also home to many more species than savannas, especially the Amazon, which is considered the most biodiverse place on earth. The Amazon represents more than half of the world’s remaining rainforests. However, due to a historic drought, about 40% of the forest sees so little rain that it could now be classified as savanna. The researchers used computer modeling and data analysis to study current levels of rainfall in the forests.
A well-known economist has warned Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro about the dangers of continued logging in the Amazon rainforest. He says deforestation and increased wildfires could send the rainforest past a tipping point in two years. After this, it would transform into a savanna, releasing billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. This would only increase global warming and cause erratic weather in parts of South America.
Of course, some climate scientists disagree, saying the tipping point won’t happen for 15 to 20 years. Others, however, agree with the warning and believe that Bolsonaro’s destructive policies and climate change pose an imminent threat to the Amazon. The wildfires in the Amazon this year are the worst the rainforest has seen in a decade. Unfortunately, there has been a 60% increase in wildfire hotspots compared to last year.
How trees benefit the environment
It goes without saying that the world’s forests significantly benefit ecosystems, providing oxygen to Earth’s species. About three trillion trees exist on Earth, but before humans, the planet had twice as many.
Due to increasing development, 10 billion more trees are cut down than are planted each year. This contributes greatly to the carbon dioxide emissions that have played a major role in climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, so planting them in large quantities can help reverse the climate crisis. Of course, much more needs to change about our modern life, but planting trees is a good start.
In addition to absorbing carbon dioxide, trees provide habitat for thousands of species. The felling of trees and other ecosystems causes enormous losses of animal life and contributes greatly to the sixth mass extinction event. If business continues as usual in the Amazon, scientists estimate it could lose about 55 different species by 2050. In the most optimistic scenario where farmers and ranchers complied with environmental laws, the number dropped to 38.
Since rainforests are home to about 50% of known terrestrial species on only 6% of Earth’s land, they are vital to wildlife. They also help control rain as the water evaporates from the leaves. Additionally, urban areas benefit from trees because they help cool cities and reduce air pollution. They also help promote mental well-being, as green spaces can reduce stress and anxiety, according to studies.
What study researchers say about logging and the fragility of rainforests
The study’s lead author, Arie Staal, said that poor conditions in rainforests could cause them to dry out. While they produce their own rain in the right climate, anything that throws off balance can cause disaster. Staal and his colleagues analyzed the rainforests of America, Africa, Asia and Oceania to determine their stability. Using computer models, they made determinations about how reduced rainfall would affect rainforests.
“Using the latest available atmospheric data and teleconnection models, we were able to simulate the downwind effects of forest disappearance for all tropical forests. By integrating these analyzes across the tropics, the picture emerged of the systematic stability of tropical forests, ”says Obbe Tuinenburg, former assistant professor at the Copernicus Institute at Utrecht University and visiting scientist at the Stockholm Resilience Center.
As forests grow and spread across a region, this affects rainfall. Forests create their own rain because the leaves emit water vapor that falls as rain downwind. Rainfall means fewer fires leading to more forests. ~ Prof. Obbe Tuinenburg
However, if large areas of the forest disappear, the rainfall in the region will decrease dramatically. The computer models used by the scientists in the study confirmed this in simulations. Staal told The Guardian that drier rainforests increase the likelihood of wildfires, making it difficult for trees to reappear. Once the rainforest passes the tipping point, it will likely not return from the savannah to its former state, he said.
The researchers used computer simulations of where tropical forests might exist under certain climatic conditions. They used this information to determine the minimum and maximum areas of probable forest cover. In addition, they analyzed different scenarios based on greenhouse gas emissions. They concluded that once the trees disappeared, the likelihood that they would grow back would drop dramatically.
Overall, the researchers found that increased emissions would cause more parts of the Amazon to lose their natural resilience. This would cause them to dry out and transform into a savanna-like environment over the course of decades, perhaps even sooner. They found that even the hardiest areas of the Amazon rainforest would shrink under a high emissions scenario. If we don’t reduce greenhouse gases, scientists warn that the Amazon could reach the tipping point sooner than we think.
If we were to remove all the trees in the Amazon in a high emissions scenario, a much smaller area would grow back than would be the case in the current climate. ~ Lan Wang-Erlandsson, Stockhold Resilience Center and co-author
The researchers found that the smallest area that can support a rainforest in the Amazon decreases by 66% in the high emissions scenario.
Ingo Fetzer of the Stockholm Resilience Center, co-author of the paper, said: “We now understand that rainforests on all continents are very sensitive to global change and can quickly lose their ability to adapt. Once they are missing, it will take many decades for their recovery to return to their original state. And since rainforests are home to most of all the world’s species, all of this will be lost forever. “
This study only looked at the effects of climate change on the Amazon and other rainforests. It does not take into account the destructive consequences of logging due to development. However, scientists believe that deforestation has led to a huge increase in forest fires throughout the Amazon.
What can we do about climate change?
We can’t seem to do much about climate change, at least not individually. However, if we demand stricter environmental policies from our governments, this can lead to big improvements. As a collective, we are responsible for protecting our planet and taking only what we need from it. By reducing consumption and pressuring our leaders to adopt better policies, we can make a difference.
It will require a monumental effort on the part of all and the cooperation of all the countries of the world. Even if we can’t completely stop climate change, we could stop it simply by working with the environment rather than against it. Here are some ideas on how you can work to combat climate change:
- Eat all the food you buy at the store. Buy local organic food when it is possible.
- Reduce water waste
- Invest in renewable energy for your home
- Weatherize your home by ensuring it is properly insulated
- Shop for energy efficient appliances
- Use public transportation instead of driving a car
- Fly less often
- Unplug devices when fully charged or if you use them infrequently.
Login Combined with climate change it could bring drastic changes to the Amazon rainforest in just decades. Around the world, we have seen the devastating effects of climate change on the environment. It seems like wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and all other natural disasters have gotten a lot worse. As the world warms due in part to human activities, we must figure out how to adapt.
Unfortunately, we cannot totally stop climate change, but we can certainly do our part to stop it. By making more environmentally friendly decisions, buying less, and holding leaders accountable, we can make a difference. We should also fight for stricter controls on logging around the world. We must all work together if we want a clean and sustainable world for future generations.