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Human Activities Turn Amazon Rainforest Into Net Climate Change Contributor; Imperil It

According to the study, both natural & human-caused factors have contributed to an imbalance in the absorption of carbon by the rainforest & emissions of gases.


A group of climate scientists and the National Geographic Society teamed up for the first time to analyze the influence of the Amazon rainforest on global climate and Earth’s rising temperatures. The Amazon rainforest is most likely now a net contributor to the warming of the planet.  According to the study, both natural and human-caused factors have contributed to an imbalance in the absorption of carbon by the rainforest, as well as increased emissions of other greenhouse gases. Last week the research was published in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change.

The study revealed that the researchers focused on the processes that produce other greenhouse gases such as--methane and nitrous oxide. It also included other processes that alter global temperatures like- release of aerosols, black carbon, and Earth’s albedo or reflectivity as well as the impact of these on regional and global climate systems.

"We conclude that current warming from non-CO2 (carbon dioxide) agents (especially methane [CH4] and nitrous oxide [N2O]) in the Amazon Basin largely offsets — and most likely exceeds — the climate service provided by atmospheric CO2 uptake,” wrote the researchers in the paper

Major Emissions from the Basin

Wide emission estimates for the known climate forcing agents- such as CO2, N2O, CH4, Ozone and Black Carbon shows high uncertainty in the magnitude of climate-relevant emissions from the Basin.

Amazon rainforest is one of the largest ecosystem C pools on Earth. Net CO2 exchange between Amazon and the atmosphere reflects the balance of uptake by primary production and weathering, and loss via respiration, decomposition of plant residues in the soils and water, and biomass burning. All identified anthropogenic changes have increased or are expected to increase CO2 emissions from the Basin.

  • CO2- When it comes to Carbon Dioxide, the study found that the largest causes for emissions are land use change and forest degradation. Land-use change occurs when human activities transform the natural landscape and how land has been used, typically for economic activities.
  • N2O- This is naturally produced by forests, but gas emissions increase when wetlands dry and logging compacts the soil.
  • CH4 (Methane)- Soils and sediments can both produce and consume CH4. Around 20% of the Amazon Basin is seasonally flooded, and recent developments suggest that previous bottom-up regional CH4 emission estimates from these areas are unreliable.
  • Ozone- Tropospheric ozone (O3) is a highly reactive trace gas that plays a major role in atmospheric chemistry and acts as a greenhouse gas and an air pollutant, which has adverse effects on human health, crops, and vegetation. With increased biomass burning, deforestation, high-intensity agricultural land conversion, and rapid urbanization in the Amazon, anthropogenic emissions of O3 precursors are on the rise. 
  • Black Carbon- This is released from fires, such as the 2019 Amazon blazes that destroyed an area roughly the size of a country. Flaky particles from black carbon absorb sunlight and increase warming.

Human activities

It also stated that the majority of human-induced activity increases the “radiative forcing” potential of the Amazon basin--that means more sunlight now gets absorbed by the region than reflected back into space, thus increasing temperatures. These are some of the human and Natural activities that affect the changing biogeochemistry of the region.

  • Deforestation and Land-Use Change
  • Fire
  • Agriculture
  • Reservoir Construction
  • Mining and Oil Extraction
  • Hunting and Overfishing

Effects of Nature

  • Warming, Drought, and Hydrological Change
  • Severe Storms

Amazon Rainforest system in grave peril

The Amazon rainforest is partially a self-sustaining regional climate and water system, which is thought to be on the brink of collapse. It contains mountainous forests, mangroves, savanna, and other types of vegetation that grow on a variety of soils, as it is not uniform. The region is the most bio-diverse and species-rich on the entire planet, with every one in 10 species in the world living here.

According to the predictions of the scientist, Robert Walker in the new paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Environment, the Amazon rainforest will vanish by 2064 due to alarming levels of deforestation and droughts occurring in the region from climate change. The green cover of 2.3 million square miles in South Africa will be wiped clean in 43 years as it is currently standing on a ‘tipping point’.

8% Of The Area Wiped Out In 18 Years

A separate study by the Amazon Geo-Referenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG) network, revealed last month that owing to the escalated deforestation in the Amazon rainforests, it has already wiped out 8 per cent of the forest area in a matter of 18 years.

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