(Down to Earth: Climate Change)
March 9: More than 75% of Amazon rainforest near tipping point, may transform into dry savanna: Study – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/more-than-75-of-amazon-rainforest-near-tipping-point-may-transform-into-dry-savanna-study-81876
- GS-3: Environment, Conservation, Climate Change
More than 75% of Amazon rainforest near tipping point, may transform into dry savanna: Study
In News: More than 75 per cent of the Amazon rainforest has been likely heading towards a tipping point since the early 2000s, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.
- It may be losing its ability to bounce back from extreme events such as drought or fire, threatening to become a dry savanna-like ecosystem. This transition might not bode well for the Amazon’s rich biodiversity, carbon-storing potential and global climate change.
- The researchers used satellite data and statistical tools to arrive at these findings.
The Amazon’s rainforest is home to 30 per cent of the world’s species, comprising 40,000 plant species, 16,000 tree species, 1,300 birds and more than 430 species of mammals.
The Amazon basin
- Covering over 6 million square kilometres, it is nearly twice the size of India.
- The Amazon rainforests cover about 80 per cent of the basin
- Also, it is home to nearly a fifth of the world’s land species and about 30 million people including hundreds of indigenous groups and several isolated tribes.
- The basin produces about 20% of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans
This is not the first time
- A previous study predicted that a tipping point would occur when the rainforest witnesses roughly 20-25 per cent of deforestation.
- Deforestation is on the rise. According to reports, it totalled 430 square kilometres in January 2022, five times higher than the same month last year.
What will happen if this continues?
- This loss will affect the amount of rainfall. Trees take up water through the roots, releasing it into the atmosphere, influencing precipitation over South America, Boers explained.
- The rainforest is also a carbon sink — a place that absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases. It plays an essential role in combating climate change. But increasing temperatures due to human-induced climate change and deforestation are pushing the rainforest to transform into a carbon source: Places that release more CO2 than they absorb.
- The researchers warn that the forests could release vast amounts of CO2 if they partially transform into dry habitats.
- The analysis showed that the indicators of tipping points go up faster in areas with less rainfall and closer to human land use.
- This suggests that drier conditions might drive resilience loss.
- Human land-use activities — direct removal of trees, construction of roads, and fires — could be another contributor, according to the researchers. It has been on the rise since 2010.
It’s not too late to act. Priority should be placed on –
- Reducing deforestation will protect the forest’s threatened parts and boost Amazon rainforest resilience.
- Limiting global greenhouse gas emissions is also necessary to safeguard the Amazon.